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Set of four soft-ground etchings, aquatint, spit bite, and sugarlift on Fabriano
Support: Rives BFK white wove, mould made paper
Sheet: 64 x 44 cm (25 3/16 x 17 5/16 in.); Platemark: 60 x 40.2 cm (23 5/8 x 15 13/16 in.)
John L. Severance Fund 1994.159
Edition: 45 plus 10 APs
In this suite of four etchings, Glenn Ligon appropriated passages from the published works of two renowned black authors and printed them in black and white reminiscent of a letterpress poster to draw attention to racism in America. The two etchings printed in black on white paper, which are progressively more difficult to read as the text descends, repeat quotes from Zora Neale Hurston's 1928 essay "How It Feels to Be Colored Me." Hurston describes whiteness as being used as a category by which to assess blackness. Ligon explains, "the prints play with the notion of becoming 'colored'" and how "one is not born black; 'blackness' is a social construction." The two other prints, printed in black on black to render them intentionally hard to decipher, repeat the first lines of Ralph Ellison's 1952 novel Invisible Man. Here, Ligon builds upon Ellison's use of the metaphor of invisibility to describe the position of blacks in America—as present and real yet still often unseen due to persistent structural racism.
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