APRIL 9-SEPTEMBER 28, 2000
ARTIST-IN-RESIDENCE: GLENN LIGON
Exhibition
Andersen Window Gallery


Glenn Ligon
Glenn Ligon (left) with members of WACTAC
photo: Dan Dennehy

   
"[I WANT TO] MAKE LANGUAGE INTO A PHYSICAL THING, SOMETHING THAT HAS REAL WEIGHT AND FORCE TO IT." --GLENN LIGON

 
 

The Andersen Window Gallery reopens with Artist-in-Residence: Glenn Ligon, a new exhibition guest-curated by Ligon. It features materials related to projects this renowned visual artist has been developing in partnership with the Givens Collection of African American Literature at the University of Minnesota and the Walker's Teen Arts Council (WACTAC). Also on view is a video documenting these two components of his artist residency at the Walker.

Fascinated by the complicated histories--social, cultural, and political--that can be traced through the covers of books by and about African Americans in the Givens Collection, Ligon selected more than 60 of these covers for this installation. He was particularly drawn to the changing representations of black figures and subject matter from the 1950s to the 1970s, a time roughly parallel to the rise of the Civil Rights and Black Power movements. His selections and groupings are highly personal yet open to varied interpretation; they range in focus from the close-ups of black faces to the coding of black subject matter in the typography and other graphics used on various covers. Never limited to the historic past, Ligon also explores the continuing representations of the black subject in books from the 1980s to present, sometimes discovering intriguing similarities to the earlier books. He has juxtaposed the books with his own comments as well as quotations from writers such as Leroi Jones, James Baldwin, and Oscar Wilde. The books are complemented by magazine covers from the same era as well as an audio station tracing popular music parallels to the evolving history of African-American literature.

For the second part of this installation, Ligon had WACTAC members respond to artworks on view in the exhibition Art in Our Time: 1950 to the Present. Borrowing from the contemporary musical model of "sampling," he asked them to make a piece of their own using the imagery and/or concept of works in the permanent collection. Over a four-month period as the teens worked closely with Ligon to develop their ideas, they gained insight into the often mysterious creative process of an artist. The teens drew on artists as varied as Lucio Fontana, Andy Warhol, Charles Ray, and Kara Walker and created works in a variety of media, which will be on view in three different rotations of two months each.

Your "window on the world," the Andersen Window Gallery invites visitors to take a closer look at contemporary art and culture. This multipurpose gallery features a media bar with an interactive wall of educational resources such as computer stations, videos, and selected publications. For more information and to see previous installations, visit the Web site.

The Andersen Window Gallery is available for community use as a site for meetings or programs. For more information, call Anastasia Shartin at 612.375.7670.


PRESENT HISTORY: A LOOK INSIDE THE WORK OF GLENN LIGON

"If history were the past, history wouldn't matter. History is the present . . ."
--James Baldwin

For the last several months, Brooklyn-based artist Glenn Ligon has been a Walker artist-in-residence as part of an exciting initiative funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts--Artists and Communities at the Crossroads--which will introduce contemporary artists to Twin Cities communities over the next two years.

Ligon is one of today's most prolific artists. Through works that incorporate the historical with the present and the socially inflected with the aesthetically complex, he is an artist who resists easy categorization. He has drawn from sources as varied as Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns, Adrian Piper, and Richard Pryor, and from practices ranging from Conceptual, Pop, and Appropriation Art to Minimalism. Best known as a painter who uses language as a device for both image and communication, Ligon addresses issues of identity and politics through quotations from culturally charged material. His word paintings excerpt evocative texts by writers such as James Baldwin, Ralph Ellison, and Zora Neale Hurston. He has said of his work that he wants to "make language into a physical thing, something that has real weight and force to it." The weight of language is further investigated in his print series such as Runaways and Narratives, which bring the racialized past into the present through Ligon's manipulations and updating of 19th-century runaway slave posters and slave narratives, respectively.

Ligon has continued to work with found texts and images such as those from the 1995 Million Man March. He is also exploring the luminescence of black coal dust as a metaphorically charged material in paintings and drawings. In all his work, Ligon surveys America's cultural legacies and situates them in contemporary life.

The new installation on view in the Andersen Window Gallery represents another chapter in the history of ongoing relationships between artists and the Walker. Ligon, whose works will appear in a solo exhibition opening in October at the museum, has been a participant in past Walker exhibitions, notably Malcolm X: Man, Ideal, Icon (1993) and Duchamp's Leg (1994-1995), and several of his pieces are part of the Walker's permanent collection. The recipient of two Visual Artist Fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, Ligon's solo exhibitions have been mounted by the Brooklyn Museum, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the Whitney Museum of American Art. He is currently exhibiting work at the Kwangju Biennale 2000 in South Korea, which opened in March.

GLENN LIGON'S ARTIST RESIDENCY IS MADE POSSIBLE BY GENEROUS SUPPORT FROM THE PEW CHARITABLE TRUSTS.