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Glenn Ligon

25 March - 11 May


Best known for his text-based paintings, celebrated American conceptual artist Glenn Ligon has created new works for his first solo exhibition in Greater China. The display includes a continuation of his Stranger paintings, a new abstract painting series titled Static, and a series of untitled drawings on Kozo paper. These works all use excerpts from James Baldwin’s landmark essay ‘Stranger in the Village’ (1953) and exemplify the artist’s radical use of text to explore the politics of culture and identity.In the Stranger series, Ligon stencils text onto the canvas with oil stick, creating a relief made of sentences. As the stencil is moved across the canvas, oil stick residue and smudges from previous words mark the canvas, obscuring some of the text. The text is further abstracted by the addition of coal dust—a black, gravel like waste product of coal mining—to the surface of the painting. Through the work’s varying degrees of legibility, Ligon evokes both hypervisibility and invisibility in the Black experience and explores language’s inability to fully articulate issues surrounding race, citizenship and subjecthood.

The new Static series sees Ligon building on this technique but to more abstract ends. Like his Stranger paintings, Ligon stencils excerpts from Baldwin’s text; however, here he uses white oil stick on a white gesso ground, subsequently rubbing black oil stick on the raised forms. In applying pigment to the overlapping layers of letters, the artist creates different degrees of abstraction and emphases their illegibility. The resulting compositions come to form a visual representation of static: the absence of a coherent transmission signal on a radio or television and the resulting noise. This series questions whether language–in our ‘post-truth’ world—can function as a way to describe the cultural moment we find ourselves in

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