America Is a Loaded Word
Glenn Ligon, the thingness of neon, and the shifting meanings of language
This week I watched a video featuring the American artist Glenn Ligon talking about a new work he has made, which is part of an ongoing series of neons depicting the word America. Ligon is a heavyweight contemporary artist in the USA, who works across different media, including painting, neon, video, sculpture and photography.
Ligon’s art explores issues of race, sexuality and identity in our world today but with an historical lens, drawing on literature and sources from the past. So he is Right. Up. My. Street. And he’s really interesting to listen to.
Ligon uses text in his work, playing with language to make us think about its shifting meanings in different contexts. In this film he talks about what ‘America’ means, describing it as a ‘loaded’ word.
It’s 10 minutes of fascinating viewing discussing the materiality, manufacture and craftsmanship of neon and its sculptural qualities, the ‘thingness’ of it, and how Ligon uses it to make his words occupy space. I really enjoyed it and wanted to share it with you. I’d love to know your thoughts on it.
Neon as an art form is completely new to me and I was so enthralled I’ve watched it three times. Those chance meetings and creative collaborations are so interesting. The works have a skeletal quality which I delighted in and wanted to see more.
‘Neon is the fifth most common element in the atmosphere and so we’re breathing it in and out all day long’ ~ who knew?
Loved this! The collaboration between artist and technician is profound, and illuminating for both (sorry). Ligon’s simple crossed out America is a great piece, hovering as it does, brilliant with a deeply resonant message . I really liked the story of their casual meeting and then the idea of them squirreling away in a nowhere Brooklyn neighborhood to produce a piece of such eloquence!