16 November 2021 - 23 December 2021
Hauser & Wirth, New York.
Renowned American artist Glenn Ligon debuts all new works in a presentation marking his return to New York after 6 years.
Continuing his four decades-long exploration of American history, literature, and society, ‘It’s Always a Little Bit Not Yet’ finds Ligon building upon his text-based works that draw from the influential words of leading 20th century cultural figures, including his ongoing series of neon installations and debris field paintings.
The cornerstone of the exhibition is Ligon’s ‘Stranger (Full Text) #2’ (2020-2021), which is rendered in black oil stick and coal dust. Measuring 45 feet long, this new benchmark work utilizes James Baldwin’s essay in its entirety. In the essay, Baldwin recounts his experience of visiting the small mountain village of Leukerbad, Switzerland.
Created in close dialogue with his text-based paintings, Ligon’s series of neon installations have used a variety of phrases and words in various scripts, sizes, and combinations of light and dark since 2005. On the first floor of the exhibition, Ligon has chosen three words to render in neon, based on onomatopoeic translations of the teeth-sucking sound used in communication throughout the African diaspora: Sth, Chups and Tchip. Rooted firmly in African and Afro-Caribbean culture, the teeth-sucking sound is used to express anger, impatience, exasperation, or annoyance.
The exhibition also presents new large-scale silkscreen and oil stick paintings from Ligon’s ‘Debris Field’ series on the gallery’s first floor. In these works, the artist has focused his attention on the forms of individual letters instead of specific words or texts, breaking language apart into individual pieces to create rhythmic and improvisational compositions. Combining silkscreen techniques and additive painting processes, Ligon’s own etchings and stencil-and-ink drawings are printed in overlapping layers on top of charged fields of red paint.
Born in the Bronx, New York, in 1960, Glenn Ligon received a BA from Wesleyan University in 1982. His early practice was grounded in painting, and his canvases of this period built upon the legacies of artists such as Philip Guston, Cy Twombly, Robert Rauschenberg, and Jasper Johns. In 1984 – 1985, Ligon spent an academic year in the Whitney Museum of American Art’s Independent Study Program, developing a series of representational drawings of iconic sculptures by European artists juxtaposed against images of African American hair products.