Glenn Ligon is known for his multi-media art practice that frequently utilizes text as a way to create intertextual encounters between viewers and the work. He has mobilized the phrase "negro sunshine" different times in his practice. In 2005, he created his first neon piece, called "Warm Broad Glow." The work spelled out the phrase negro sunshine in yellow neon, with the front of the bulbs painted black. Study for Negro Sunshine II, #31 (2011) comes from a series of prints in which the phrase is repeated over and over again in various textures and densities. Repetition is important to the work, as the phrase itself comes from the book "Three Lives" by Gertrude Stein. The author invokes the enigmatic phrase repeatedly throughout the book as if it were a common aphorism, which it was not. Stein seems to have invented the phrase herself, as a kind of catch-all reference to the supposed laid-back, mellow countenance of African Americans post-slavery. The phrase suggests many racist generalizations, such as being easy going and relaxed, slow moving and pleasant, which were created as a way for White Americans to diminish post-slavery Black Americans by making them seem simple and harmless. Ligon seems to be confronting this slander by forcing us to ask what the phrase means, and in fact whether it has any meaning at all in the various contexts in which he presents it.
Work hangs on a wire that is attached to the back of the work.
Artist Studio Luhring Augustine, NY Kavi Gupta, Chicago
Each One As She May: Ligon, Reich, & De Keersmaeker, ICA, Philadelphia, 2013