Collection Artwork
Glenn Ligon (born Bronx, New York, 1960)
detail from Runaways
paper size: 16 x 12 in.
frame size: 16 7/8 x 12 3/4 x 1 1/4 in.
Gift of Jack Shear
3/3 PP
Inscribed in pencil, lower left: PP 3/3
Signed and dated in pencil, lower right: Glenn Ligon ‘93

Object Label

Runaways is broadly about how an individual’s identity is inextricable from the way one is positioned in the culture, from the ways people see you, from historical and political contexts.”
—Glenn Ligon

Glenn Ligon asked 10 friends to write descriptions of him, and he set those texts in early 19th-century-style typefaces paired with period illustrations, akin to runaway-slave broadsheets. Cast in the role of a person escaping slavery—as the living commodity fleeing a slave owner—Ligon brings the turmoil of the antebellum United States to the present day and raises questions about the repercussions and reverberations of slavery. These texts might also read like a police report or remind of the always-watching eyes of surveillance that disproportionately affects marginalized communities. But in leaving the price-for-capture unstated, unlike on historical runaway-slave ads, Ligon perhaps signals his freedom, a state his ancestors dreamed and fought for.

From the exhibition: Beauty and Bite (July 20, 2019 – January 19, 2020)

Ongoing Research

Research on our collection is ongoing. If you have resources you’d like to share, please contact Associate Curator Rebecca McNamara.
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