Synecdoche (For Byron Kim), 2018
Red Hands #2, 1996
At the beginning of the Trump regime I began to think about whether our democracy would survive and what it means to be a citizen. I made the neons Synecdoche (For Byron Kim), 2018 and Aftermath, 2020 in reference to the upcoming presidential election and the fallout from it.
Synecdoche (For Byron Kim) will only be lit on November 3, 2020, the date of the election. Synecdoche means “part representing the whole” and the title of the neon is a tribute to Synecdoche (1991- present), a series of abstract monochrome paintings based on people’s skin colors by the artist Byron Kim.
Just as a small patch of a person skin represents a part of the whole, so does the vote we cast on election day represent the part of a whole, just as a date represents a part of a larger historical narrative.
Aftermath was lit before November 4, 2020 and will remain lit after the date of the neon illustrates. Although the title “Aftermath” implies that November 4, 2020 is the date on which we will see how the United States will react to the election results, the neon being lit before that date signals
that we are already in the aftermath, that the emergency started generations ago for indigenous people who resided here before the colonizers arrived and for the enslaved Africans brought to these shores over 400 years ago.
Between the images of the two neons on the telephone booth is Red Hands, 1996, a silkscreen painting of a sea of raised hands taken from an image of the Million Man March in Washington, D.C. in 1995. Organized by Minister Louis Farrakhan, leader of the Nation of Islam, the march was organized, in part, to “convey to the world a vastly different picture of the Black male”(1).
I was interested in how black people feel the necessity to gather in symbolic spaces such as the National Mall in order to assert our presence
in a country which would not exist without our the fruits of our forced labor.
*Million Man March National Organizing Committee (January 1996). "Million Man March Fact Sheet". In Madhubuti, Haki R.; Karenga, Maulana (eds.).
Million Man March / Day of Absence; A Commemorative Anthology; Speeches, Commentary, Photography, Poetry, Illustrations, Documents. Chicago: Third World Press. p. 152
Glenn Ligon (b. 1960) is an artist living and working in New York. Through his work he pursues an incisive exploration of American history, literature, and society across a body of work that builds critically on the legacies of modern painting and more recent conceptual art. He is best known for his text-based paintings, made since the late 1980s, which draw on the writings and speech of diverse figures including Jean Genet, Zora Neale Hurston, Gertrude Stein and Richard Pryor. He received a Bachelor of Arts from Wesleyan University and attended the Whitney Museum Independent Study Program. In 2011 the Whitney Museum of American Art held a mid-career retrospective of Ligon’s work, Glenn Ligon: America, organized by Scott Rothkopf, that traveled nationally. Important recent shows include Glenn Ligon: Encounters and Collisions (2015), a curatorial project organized with Nottingham Contemporary and Tate Liverpool, and Blue Black (2017), an exhibition Ligon curated at the Pulitzer Arts Foundation in St. Louis, inspired by the site-specific Ellsworth Kelly wall. Ligon has also been the subject of solo museum exhibitions at the Camden Arts Centre in London, the Power Plant in Toronto, the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, and the Studio Museum in Harlem, among others. His work has been included in major international exhibitions, including the Venice Biennale (2015 and 1997), Berlin Biennal (2014), Istanbul Biennal (2011), Documenta XI (2002), and Gwangju Biennale (2000).
Glenn Ligon is represented by Hauser & Wirth, New York; Regen Projects, Los Angeles; Thomas Dane Gallery, London; and Chantal Crousel, Paris.
Installation view of Glenn Ligon, Synecdoche (For Byron Kim), 2018, Aftermath, 2020, Red Hands #2, 1996 for TITAN, New York City, October 12, 2020 – January 3, 2021
Image courtesy of the artist, kurimanzutto, Mexico City / New York; Hauser & Wirth, New York; Regen Projects, Los Angeles; Thomas Dane Gallery, London; and Chantal Crousel, Paris
Photo: PJ Rountree