Glenn Ligon: Encounters and Collisions, Tate Liverpool

Glenn Ligon, one of America’s most significant contemporary artists, has curated an exhibition which could be deemed his ‘ideal museum’. The exhibited artists include Willem de Kooning, Andy Warhol, Cy Twombly, Bruce Nauman, Steve McQueen, Lorna Simpson, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Chris Ofili and Kara Walker, all of whom discuss postwar American art within a wider context and have had significant influence on Ligon’s own career.

Since the late 1980s Ligon’s paint-focused, often multimedia work has referenced other artists in his mission to challenge the American identity, while other influences include slave narratives, the essays of James Baldwin and Zora Neale Hurston, the routines of comedian Richard Pryor and news coverage, such as that of Louis Farrakhan’s Million Man March of 1995.

Glenn Ligon: Encounters and Collisions questions representations of race, gender and sexuality during historic events such as the Civil Rights struggle and the Black Liberation movement up to the aftermath of the American ‘Culture Wars’ and the AIDS crisis, in artworks spanning abstract expressionism, pop art, minimalism, conceptual art and performance. Not only are numerous influences and contemporaries represented, but also Ligon’s own works such as Stranger #23, 2006, a large coal-dust painting featuring a passage from James Baldwin’s Stranger in the Village and his seminal video piece Untitled (I Lost My Voice I Found My Voice), 1991 which is an abstracted version of a film directed by Thomas Edison in 1903, Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

Ligon describes the show as ‘an attempt to create a space that positions my work as a series of dialogues with other artists and histories, encouraging the viewer to consider how these dialogues profoundly shaped the artworks I have made over the course of my career.’

Glenn Ligon: Encounters and Collisions, until 18 October, Tate Liverpool, Albert Dock, Liverpool Waterfront, Liverpool L3 4BB.

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1. Glenn Ligon, Untitled 2006. Courtesy of Tate.