For this exhibition, which marks a decade since the artist’s work was first shown in Japan, Glenn Ligon will premiere two new bodies of work: Static paintings; and a series of untitled drawings on Kozo paper. These works, which draw upon legacies of classical art and writing, modern painting, and conceptual art, are created using the artistic technique of rubbing, manifesting a distinctive physicality with different forms and material and varying degrees of legibility, and ultimately, abstraction. Both series employ excerpts of text from James Baldwin’s 1953 essay Stranger in the Village, which recounts the author’s experience in a small village in Switzerland, where for many he was the first Black man they had ever seen. Ligon’s iconic use of Baldwin’s text alludes to historical, political, and social concerns with race relations and national identity in present-day America.
In his Static paintings, Ligon stencilled Baldwin’s text in white oil stick on a gesso ground, then rubbed black oil stick on the top surface of the letters. With repeated stencils and overlapping layers, the letters are increasingly smudged and illegible, creating different degrees of abstraction based on the artist’s “interventions.” The forms that emerge on the canvas cohere into a striking composition that builds upon the idea of “improvisational abstraction,” which is central to Ligon’s practice.
Opening reception: Saturday 25 November, 5–7pm
Exhibition dates: 25 November 2023–24 February 2024
1 Murasakino Higashino-cho