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Glenn Ligon was born in 1960 in the Bronx, New York. He attended the Rhode Island School of Design for two years beginning in 1980, and received a BA from Wesleyan University in 1982. In 1985, he participated in the Whitney Museum of American Art’s Independent Study Program. Combining painting, photography, and conceptual practices, Ligon has addressed issues of racial and sexual identity in his work. He first attracted recognition for his paintings in which texts are written in black against white backgrounds, such as Untitled (I Feel Most Colored When I Am Thrown Against a Sharp White Background) (1990–91). In 2005, Ligon began to create works in neon writing which employed quotes from historical figures like Sojourner Truth and Gloria Steinem; to directly engage with the art historically laden medium, he covered the visible side of the glass with thick coats of black paint and left the part of the tubes facing the walls exposed to create a luminous haze of light behind the inscriptions. Ligon has had solo shows at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C. (1993), Brooklyn Museum of Art (1996), Saint Louis Art Museum (2000), the Studio Museum in Harlem (2001), Dia Center for the Arts in New York (2003), and The Power Plant in Toronto (2005), among other venues. In 2006 he was awarded the Skowhegan Medal for Painting. He lives and works in New York.


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