the broad

Double America 2

Glenn Ligon
neon and paint
48 x 145 x 3 in. (121.9 x 368.3 x 7.6 cm)


Joanne Heyler



You can't avoid thinking about, the fact that his work is about his perceptions of life as an African-American male in the United States. The ‘America’ that is inverted and beneath is actually very subtly glimmering and flickering. And that is very much part of Glenn's intention with this piece and definitely it evokes a sense of uncertainty and fragility.



Ligon references literature and pop culture in his work such as Zora Neal Hurston, James Baldwin, and Richard Pryor. In a 1977 television appearance, Richard Pryor introduced himself to white America by simply stating, “I was born.” A fact so blatant its ridiculousness calls out the insipid nature of racism and the existential struggle of black identity.

And here’s W.E.B Dubois, from “The Souls of Black Folk,” some one hundred years earlier.

“It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity. One ever feels his two-ness— an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder.”