Blog / Glenn Ligon: spelling it out

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By Wendy

The words “negro sunshine” will stretch 22 feet across the front of the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, starting March 10.
A smaller version, about five feet wide, will be displayed in backlit, black-painted neon letters in a gallery at the Nasher Museum, in an exhibition opening March 10. A week later, another edition of this work of art, made by New York artist Glenn Ligon, will be on view at the North Carolina Museum of Art.

Coincidence? Maybe, maybe not.
“Warm Broad Glow” is considered one of Glenn Ligon’s most important works.

The artist took the phrase from “Melanctha,” Gertrude’s Stein’s 1909 novella about a mixed-race woman.

“Are those two words, installed in such a prominent manner, meant to shock?” Carol Vogel asks the artist in today’s The New York Times. ” ‘Shock,’ repeated Mr. Ligon, a bit surprised at the question. ‘It’s not provocative, it’s Gertrude Stein.’ ”

It’s not a shock that Trevor Schoonmaker, Patsy R. and Raymond D. Nasher Curator of Contemporary Art at the Nasher Museum, included the work in our upcoming exhibition “Building the Permanent Collection: Five Years of Acquisitions.” The show is a celebration of the museum’s fifth anniversary and presents the most significant  contemporary works acquired since the museum’s founding in 2005.

” ‘Warm Broad Glow’ is important because it encapsulates so many elements of Glenn’s practice in one work,” Trevor says. “Erudite, and very specific, literary references are the basis for a lot of his work, which he then recasts out of its original context into a new work in a new realm. He’s tackling race in a way that is complex and not didactic.  The work is political, but still maintains an alluring sense of ambiguity.”

In our first five years, the Nasher Museum has focused on modern and contemporary art with particular emphasis on global, emerging artists of color. “Building the Contemporary Collection” features work by Glenn Ligon and 41 other artists, including Christian Boltanski, William Cordova, Noah Davis, Rineke Dijkstra, Marlene Dumas, David Hammons, Barkley L. Hendricks, Christian Marclay, Zwelethu Mthethwa, Odili Donald Odita, Dan Perjovschi, Dario Robleto, David Salle, Carolee Schneemann, Gary Simmons, Xaviera Simmons, Jeff Sonhouse, Eve Sussman, Alma Thomas, Hank Willis Thomas, Mickalene Thomas, Bob Thompson, Kara Walker, Jeff Whetstone, Kehinde Wiley, Fred Wilson and Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, among others. The exhibition reflects the museum’s interest in the art and culture of the African diaspora, and includes works in a variety of media–painting, drawing, photography, sculpture, video and installation. (The opening event is March 16, with artists Barkley L. Hendricks and Mickalene Thomas, and collector Jason Rubell.)

IMAGE: Glenn Ligon, “Warm Broad Glow,” 2005. Neon and paint; 4 x 48 inches. Promised Gift of Blake Byrne, T’57, in honor of Raymond D. Nasher. Image courtesy of Regen Projects, Los Angeles. © Glenn Ligon.

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