Glenn Ligon is one of the most significant American artists of his generation. Each of his works is a dialogue with other works of art, literature or culture. They relate, in particular, to American history, black experience and sexuality. For this exhibition he has brought together the work of 45 major artists – many of them referred to in his art or writing – from the late 1940s to the present day. Encounters and Collisions also includes key examples of Ligon’s own work.
Ligon came to prominence in the late 1980s and early 1990s with paintings related to abstract art. They featured stenciled texts repeated until smudging made them almost illegible. Some borrowed from books by important African- American writers, such as James Baldwin. Others used the words of famous public figures such as the comedian Richard Pryor and boxer Muhammad Ali. Ligon also makes works in other mediums, including video, neon, printmaking and installation.
Ligon has chosen works by the major figures in Postwar American art including the celebrated Abstract Expressionists Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline and Philip Guston. Key figures from the subsequent American art movements of the 60s and 70s, from Pop art and Minimalism to Conceptual art and performance, include Cy Twombly, Jasper Johns, Andy Warhol, Richard Serra, Bruce Nauman, David Hammons and Adrian Piper. Important American artists of Ligon’s own generation are also featured, such as Cady Noland, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Robert Gober, David Wojnarowicz, Byron Kim, Zoe Leonard and Lorna Simpson. Like Ligon, their work often deals with the shifting experience of American identity, examining loaded questions around language, power, race, gender and sexuality.
Glenn Ligon: Encounters and Collisions is a partnership between Nottingham Contemporary and Tate Liverpool curated by Glenn Ligon, in dialogue with Alex Farquharson, Director, Nottingham Contemporary, and Francesco Manacorda, Artistic Director, Tate Liverpool. After Nottingham Contemporary the exhibition opens in Liverpool on 30 June 2015, where it coincides with Jackson Pollock: Blind Spots.