Monday, November 5, 2012

Let there be LIGHT!


Hurricane Sandy has come and gone. She's left a lot of debris and taken with her some of the east coast. Not everyone in Manhattan has electricity back on yet, but we're close to getting back on track. During this time of darkness, Glenn Ligon can shed some light for us. Neon light, that is.

Many months ago I saw the Glenn Ligon retrospective at the Whitney and expressed my utter shock about not having known about him sooner. Well, now I know, and thanks to the extent of the exhibit I attended, I know where he's coming from and what he's about.

Glenn Ligon is an African American contemporary multi media artist whos work heavily reflects issues of race, sexuality and language. His pieces range from silkscreen, painting, photography, sculpture, installation and many incorporate cultural references and text, including but not limited to historical figures like Malcolm X as well as popular comedian Richard Pryor.

Luhring Augustine Gallery is home to Glenn Ligons show NEON for the next month, up until Dec 8th. Probably one of the more ironic shows to have up during a blackout, it consists exclusively of Ligons neon text pieces, some of which are familiar from the Whitney, others I am seeing for the first time.

"Negro Sunshine" 
A neon light painted black on the front, with the back exposed to give off light on the wall behind. 
What the artist calls a 'black light'.

'The Moon Belongs To The People III'


'If I can't have love, I'll take sunshine'

Each piece, powerful in its phrasing, has its own personality. The handwriting and size of the text, the color of the light emitted and even the wattage of the bulb seem to change from wall to wall. Different voices, but all speaking from the same group. The wires hanging from the installations are reminiscent of the spray paint drips that come off of heavy-handed graffiti. The faint humming of the bulbs that ebbs and flows as one walks about creates and other-worldly feeling, adding a built-in sound installation to the space.

Once mass transit is back on track and our eyes become less light-sensitive I recommend seeing this show. Preferably on a cloudy, overcast afternoon, to fully amplify the glow of these haunting sculptures. We could all use a little more light this week.