Exhibition of recent work by New York-based artist Glenn Ligon opens at Regen Projects

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Exhibition of recent work by New York-based artist Glenn Ligon opens at Regen Projects
Installation view of Glenn Ligon Well, it’s bye-bye/If you call that gone at Regen Projects, Los Angeles. Photo: Brian Forrest. Courtesy Regen Projects, Los Angeles.

LOS ANGELES, CA.- Regen Projects announces Well, it’s bye-bye / If you call that gone, an exhibition of recent work by New York-based artist Glenn Ligon. Taking its name from the lyrics of blues musician Mississippi Fred McDowell’s song “What’s the Matter Now,” this exhibition presents three distinct bodies of work: a selection of “Come Out” paintings, a neon sculpture, and Ligon’s seminal silkscreen painting, “Hands” (1996). This marks the artist’s fourth solo presentation at the gallery.

Glenn Ligon has a wide-ranging multimedia art practice that encompasses painting, neon, photography, sculpture, print, installation, and video. Perhaps best known for his monochromatic and highly textured text paintings that draw their content from American history, popular culture, and literary works by writers such as James Baldwin, Zora Neale Hurston, Gertrude Stein, Jean Genet, Mary Shelley, and Walt Whitman, his work explores issues of history, language, and cultural identity.

On view in this exhibition are a series of monumental silkscreen paintings inspired by American Minimalist composer Steve Reich’s 1966 taped-speech work “Come Out.” Reich was commissioned to create a piece for a benefit concert to support the defense fund for the Harlem Six, a group of six African-American teenagers who were wrongfully accused of murdering a shopkeeper in Harlem in 1964. Focusing on the taped testimony of Daniel Hamm, who states that he had to open up his police-inflicted bruises to let some of the blood come out to show them that he was injured and needed treatment, Reich’s piece isolates the phrase “come out to show them” and loops it over and over again on two different audio channels which play simultaneously. The looped phrase gradually goes out of synch, turning the words spoken into an abstract soundscape. Similarly, Ligon’s paintings echo this strategy by repeatedly silk-screening the same phrase by hand, overlapping the layers of words to varying degrees of density and legibility.

Resting on the floor, an upside down double neon depicts the words America. Comprised of a set of identical neons placed at an angle to each other and blinking in a frenetic manner, the seven letters ambiguously represent a nation, place, or concept. A large silkscreen painting entitled “Hands” (1996) uses found media images taken of the Million Man March that took place in Washington, D.C. on October 16, 1995. This particular piece depicts a moment during the march when organizer Minister Louis Farrakhan called upon the attendees to raise their arms in a pledge of solidarity and collective responsibility for social justice. Repeatedly enlarged through the use of a black and white Xerox photocopier, the representational quality of the image is compromised and falls apart as it becomes increasingly coarse and degraded in its larger form. While created in response to a particular cultural moment, the image nevertheless resonates with the current debates about black visibility and political agency.

Glenn Ligon (b. 1960) lives and works in New York. He received a Bachelor of Arts from Wesleyan University in 1982, and attended the Whitney Independent Study Program in 1985. His solo exhibitions include Camden Arts Centre, London (2014-15); Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2011); The Power Plant, Toronto (2005); The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York (2001); Kunstverein, Munich (2001); Walker Art Center, Minneapolis (2000); and the Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia (1998). His work was included in Documenta XI (2002) and in two Whitney Biennials (1991, 1993). This summer his work will be included in Okwui Enwezor’s All the World’s Futures at the 56th International Art Exhibition La Biennale di Venezia (May 9 – November 22, 2015). Ligon will curate a two-venue exhibition entitled Encounters and Collisions, featuring work by a variety of artists who have inspired his own practice ranging from Willem de Kooning, Andy Warhol, Adrian Piper, Jean Michel Basquiat, and David Hammons to Steve McQueen, Cady Noland, Lorna Simpson, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, and Chris Ofili. The exhibition will be on view at Nottingham Contemporary, Nottingham (April 3 – June 14) and Tate Liverpool, Liverpool (June 30 – October 18).

He is a board member of the Foundation for Contemporary Art and has received numerous awards and recognitions for his work, including the Studio Museum’s Joyce Alexander Wein Artist Prize (2009); the Skowhegan Medal for Painting (2006); the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship (2003); and the Joan Mitchell Foundation Grant (1997). In 2015 he was named a finalist for the Mario Merz Prize.

Monographs and publications on his work include A People on the Cover (Ridinghouse Press, 2015); Come Out (Ridinghouse Press, 2014); Glenn Ligon: AMERICA (Whitney Museum of American Art, 2011); Yourself in the World: Selected Writings and Interviews (Yale University Press, 2011); Some Changes (The Power Plant, 2005); Stranger (The Studio Museum in Harlem, 2001); Coloring: New Work by Glenn Ligon (Walker Art Center, 2001); and Unbecoming (Institute of Contemporary Art Philadelphia, 1998).

Ligon’s work is held in the permanent collections of museums worldwide including Tate Modern, London; Centre Pompidou, Paris; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Guggenheim Museum, New York; Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.; National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.; Detroit Institute of Art, Detroit; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco; and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles; among others.

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