Untitled (I'm Turning Into a Specter before Your Very Eyes and I'm Going to Haunt You)
Glenn Ligon, American, born 1960
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The repeated phrase on this painting comes from the 1958 play The Blacks: A Clown Show, by the white, queer French dramatist, novelist, and poet Jean Genet. Genet wrote The Blacks to cross-examine racial prejudice, and he pushed issues to their extremes by having Black actors play certain parts in whiteface.
Genet is one of many cultural thinkers Glenn Ligon invokes in his signature white canvases with black text, whose words complicate and destabilize queerness and Black identity. Using a stencil, Ligon allows paint to muddy and build up as he works from the top to the bottom of the canvas. His process performs the act of repetition and reabsorption to the point of illegibility, calling to mind the ways in which Black, queer, and other suppressed voices are represented, heard, and potentially rendered invisible over time.
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