As told by Christopher Knight for Los Angeles Times
As tinderboxes go, few are more potentially volatile than the politics of race and sex. Mix the two together, and the possibility for explosion rises exponentially.
In Glenn Ligon’s art, expertly surveyed in a traveling exhibition newly arrived at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the mixture is made. An explosion, however, never comes. What arrives instead is something different — something better, more cogent and worthwhile. Like all good iconoclasts, Ligon chisels open a space for contemplation from a place that is too often inaccessible and locked-down.
The Bronx-born artist, 50, began as a painter. Although the show includes sculptures, prints, drawings, mixed media and even neon signs, painting remains a core activity. Take the beautiful recent neon sculptures in the final room, which play with the word “America,” flipping around its letters to show darker sides. Painting’s usual support of stretched canvas is replaced by gas-filled and electrified glass tubing, parts of which are painted black to achieve various poetic effects. They’re as much paintings as the canvases in the first gallery.
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