Shannon Egan, Gettysburg College
Kimberly Rae Connor, Gettysburg College
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The exhibition on display at Schmucker Art Gallery, a suite of nine prints entitled Narratives by prominent contemporary artist Glenn Ligon, has been made possible by a generous gift to Gettysburg College by Dr. Kimberly Rae Connor ’79. Ligon’s works have been exhibited widely at major museums, and Gettysburg College is fortunate to have the opportunity to engage with work that examines issues of race, sexuality, history and representation. The artist is well known for his use of quotations and texts from a variety of literary writers and cultural critics such as James Baldwin, Frantz Fanon, bell hooks and Ralph Ellison, in his continuously successful examination of the critical place of slavery, oppression and freedom in African-American history and identity.
In Narratives, Ligon’s emphasis on the text takes the place of a traditional image. He includes quotations from Hilton Als, Josephine Baker and Derek Walcott, but the story is his own. The format and font of these prints mimic the title pages of mid-nineteenth-century slave narratives. Not only does Ligon borrow the typographic style of these historic title pages, he also adopts a particular nineteenth-century vernacular. In the act of reading and seeing Ligon’s late twentiethcentury prints, the viewer must also consider the context and history of the original, personal, heart-wrenching, realistic and persuasive accounts of slavery. Slave narratives bolstered the abolitionists’ movement, often reached wide audiences and gained considerable popularity among northern readers, such as Frederick Douglass’s narrative, which sold 30,000 copies between 1845 and 1860. While Douglass was the author of his own book, many of the slaves were illiterate. Their horrific stories of abuse, familial separation, severity of the workload and dreadful living conditions were recorded by white abolitionists. Regardless of who transcribed the stories, the books often emphasized the veracity and authenticity of the author’s accounts. Correspondingly, Ligon tells of his own life and stresses the truth of this kind of honest and suggestive autobiography. [excerpt]
Schmucker Art Gallery, Gettysburg College
Glenn Ligon, Schmucker Art Gallery, Gettysburg College, African American, slavery, oppression, freedom, race, slave narrative
Egan, Shannon and Connor, Kimberly Rae, "Glenn Ligon: Narratives" (2014). Schmucker Art Catalogs. 14.