Glenn Ligon

American, born 1960

Untitled (Rage) #2

© Glenn Ligon

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Untitled (Rage) #2, 2002

Artwork Details

Currently on View


mixed media on canvas


support: 74 7/8 x 82 5/8 inches (190.1825 x 209.8675 cm)

Collection Buffalo AKG Art Museum


Sarah Norton Goodyear Fund, 2002

Accession ID


Glenn Ligon is best known for his investigation of the political implications of language used as a tool for communication. In his paintings, prints, and neon text sculptures, he combines the look of abstraction with the strategies of Pop and Conceptual art to create images informed by African American culture. Using fragments of texts taken from authors such as James Baldwin, Ralph Ellison, and Zora Neale Hurston, Ligon makes language into something physical. The text in this painting is from Baldwin’s “Stranger in the Village,” an essay written in 1953 while the author was living in a small Swiss village. In the essay, Baldwin, an openly gay African American, writes about his experience as an outsider not only in the tiny Swiss town but also in the pre–Civil Rights United States. The dense blackness of Ligon’s painting evokes Baldwin’s rage, which is literally expressed in the top line of text: “The rage of the disesteemed.” These words were stenciled onto the canvas in such a way as to be nearly illegible, disappearing into a luminescent surface of coal dust. The result—a stark, minimal field infused with politically and racially charged content—is intentionally ambiguous. Ligon has commented, “What I have done by rendering text in paint in the space of the painting, is sort of met the text halfway. The struggle you have to go through in reading the text in my painting adds something to the text.”

Label from DECADE: Contemporary Collecting 2002–2012, August 21, 2012–January 6, 2013

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