Glenn Ligon ( American, 1960 )

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General Description

In this painting, words become a beautiful but frustrating vehicle of incomprehension. A text arises but soon become illegible, needing to be deciphered rather than read. The text is based on the opening lines of renowned American writer James Baldwin's essay "A Stranger in the Village," an account of Baldwin's time spent in a Swiss village in the 1950s where the majority of citizens had never seen a person of African identity or descent. Mysterious and poetic, the work can be considered a metaphor for being seen but not understood.

Adapted from

Charles Wylie, Re-Seeing the Contemporary: Selected from the Collection, 2010.