About the Artist
Glenn Ligon was born in the Bronx in 1960, attended the Walden School in New York on a scholarship, and graduated from Wesleyan University in 1982. He participated in the Whitney Museum's Independent Study Program in 1985, known at that time for its language-based approach. Ligon is best known for intertextual works that re-present American history and literature, in particular narratives of slavery and civil rights, for contemporary audiences. His work engages a powerful mix of racial and gender-oriented struggles for the self, leading viewers to reconsider problems inherent in representation.
Untitled (I Am a Man) is a representation—a signifier—of the actual signs carried by 1,300 striking African American sanitation workers in Memphis, made famous in Ernest Withers 1968 photographs. This painting is Ligon's most important and iconic work. As the first object in which he used a selected text, Untitled (I Am a Man) is his breakthrough. He took pains to differentiate the painting from the original signs, avoiding a one-to-one relationship by reorganizing the line breaks. And while he preserved the original black-on-white of the sign, his choice to paint the black letters in eye-catching enamel calls attention to a black figure ("Man") as a text that replaces the human form in figurative painting. The deliberately rough surface of the painting, which Ligon later documented with a condition report he made as a supplementary work of art, seems to index the scars and struggles of the work's great subject.
- 4.5 x 7 inches
- Lined pages