The D.C. Docent

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4 posts tagged LACMA

Glenn Ligon at LACMA Glenn Ligon at LACMA Glenn Ligon at LACMA Glenn Ligon at LACMA Glenn Ligon at LACMA Glenn Ligon at LACMA

Ligon at LACMA: It’s challenging to try and summarize Glenn Ligon’s work, but if I had to choose one thing to focus on it would be the way in which he straddles multiple spheres of “being” and “identity” and the inherent tensions in this process. It’s complicated.

At lunch yesterday, I explained to my friend that it’s how I think of President Obama; as a man that naturally tries to modulate to the center because that’s his psychological profile, not something that is tied to political ideology. Because of his racial and cultural heritage and the way he was raised, he’s always trying to walk that line, bridge multiple spheres, or dual ways of being. 

Ligon’s work in this show requires extra time and thoughtfulness. His choice of words, whether his own, or of others, always seem to be of two minds, saying one thing, but then another. And he never decides for us, the viewer, what those words mean, even though it feels like sometimes he is deciding, by not deciding.

The best example of this for me is Notes on the Margin of the Black Book (1991-1993) his critique on Robert Mapplethorpe’s controversial Black Book, (a collection of 91 nudes/portraits of black men from the late 80’s; criticized as being exploitative). Ligon revisits each of these images and attaches commentary from intellects, authors, news accounts, critical essays, etc. but never his own words. Yet, as you read what he’s chosen to present to you, you still feel that he’s telling you something by what he’s chosen to use, or not use, but he doesn’t judge, and he doesn’t decide for you. You walk away from the work understanding that it’s complicated, and that it’s about much more than what it appears to be. Isn’t that really what it’s all about?

Glenn Ligon: America at LACMA runs through January 2012.

Nam June Paik exhibit at NGA

I was first exposed to this Korean legend in 2000 when I attended (completely by accident) his first American retrospective at the Guggenheim in New York. I can still remember winding up to the top and feeling truly awed at his genius, with each step forward revealing more and more. Side note: this is the second best exhibit I’ve ever seen at the Guggenheim; best was Cai Guo-Qiang’s I Want to Believe in 2008. I was to see Paik’s work in-person again only twice before he died: at the Hirshhorn (Video Flag) and a small piece at one of the WPA’s annual auctions (not sure of the year, but Annie Adjanavich was still their Executive Director).

This past Sunday, the National Gallery of Art opened an intimate exhibit which features works from the gallery’s collection as well as his estate. “The centerpiece is One Candle, Candle Projection (1988–2000), one of the artist’s simplest, most dynamic works. Each morning a candle is lit and a video camera follows its progress, casting its flickering, magnified, processed image onto the walls in myriad projections.” I haven’t seen it yet, but this description reminds me of a particular piece by South African artist Robin Rhode I saw last year at LACMA.

I’m sure the visit will be worth it. Also check out this succinct write up by Art Daily.

In The Tower: Nam June Paik on view through October 2.