ILLUMINATE SF

DOUBLE AMERICA

Glenn Ligon (2012)
Installed: May 14, 2016 - September 18, 2016
Yerba Buena: 151 Third Street, SFMOMA

In Glenn Ligon’s Double America, both Americas flicker erratically as if the energy source used to sustain them is almost depleted. During its exhibition at San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA), the artist's large-scale glowing neon sign boldly flashed “AMERICA” with an inverted mirror image of itself underneath. Inspired by Charles Dickens’ Tale of Two Cities, the artwork created two Americas tethered to and powered by six transformers that feed black-lined white neon glass tubes that were the sign’s skeleton. The power boxes, laying exposed and vulnerable on the floor, suggested a subtle sense of disregard and instability that almost goes unnoticed.

Artist: Glenn Ligon is an American conceptual artist whose work explores race, language, desire, sexuality, and identity. The artist’s childhood love of literature evolved into a fascination with the political and social uses of language, which informs much of his current work. His paintings and prints give weight and force to the written word as they contemplate issues about the formation and perception of identity and race. Ligon is perhaps best known for paintings that feature carefully selected phrases taken from literary sources such as Gertrude Stein, James Baldwin, Ralph Ellison, Mary Shelley, and Jean Genet. As in White #3, 1993, evocative quotes are hand stenciled onto the canvas or printing plate repeatedly, yielding surfaces comprised of line after line of the chosen words, some legible and others less so.