press release

Opening Reception: Saturday, October 27, 6:00 – 8:00 pm

Regen Projects is pleased to announce an exhibition of new paintings and a neon text piece by New York based artist Glenn Ligon. This exhibition will present gold colored Richard Pryor joke paintings and one neon work. The hand stenciled joke paintings read: "I was a nigger for twenty-three years. I gave that shit up. No room for No room for advancement"

There is a line break in the paintings following the first "No room for" where the joke "stutters" which is both an indication that the text is a transcription of speech and an enactment of the joke's punchline. Subtle changes in the density of the painted surfaces and the legibility of the text make each painting unique while the repetition of the joke makes each canvas function as a part standing in for the whole. Interspersed within the group are several other Pryor joke paintings which serve as punctuation points within the installation. The second component of the exhibition is a neon text piece that reads "Negro Sunshine" which is excerpted from Gertrude Stein's novel "Three Lives". Unlike previous versions this neon has been painted completely black so no light is emitted from the work and will have a loud buzzing sound characteristic of the sound neon makes when it has shorted out. With the refusal to glow, and the incessant buzzing, this work functions as a meditation on absence and failure.

In 1993, Ligon began the first of three series of paintings based on Richard Pryor's groundbreaking stand-up comedy routines from the 1970s. The scatological and racially charged jokes Ligon depicts speak in the vernacular language of the street and reveal a complex and nuanced vision of black culture.

"It is central to their deconstructive force, rather than trivial, that Ligon re-presents Pryor's jokes as statements lodged between the verbal and the visual, the perceptual and conceptual – in effect, between the scene of the myth and that of its possible verification. Pryor's joke purports but fails to make visible what can exist only in fantasy, and Ligon's paintings literally realize this, monumentalizing the necessary failure at the joke's core." (Darby English. "Glenn Ligon: Committed to Difficulty" in Glenn Ligon – Some Changes, published by The Power Plant, Toronto, 2005, p. 63)

Glenn Ligon is at the forefront of a generation of artists who came to prominence in the late 1980s with conceptually based work that investigates the social, linguistic, and political constructions of race, gender, and sexuality. His practice encompasses painting, printmaking, sculpture, installation, and video. Ligon's art is a meditation on issues of quotation, the presence of the past in the present, and the representation of the self in relation to culture and history.

Glenn Ligon's work has been the subject of exhibitions throughout Europe, the United States, and Canada. Recent solo exhibitions include the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, the Studio Museum in Harlem, and the ICA in Philadelphia. A survey of Ligon's work opened at the Power Plant in Toronto in June 2005 and traveled to the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh; Contemporary Arts Museum in Houston; Wexner Center for the Arts in Columbus; Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery in Vancouver, and the Musée d'Art Moderne Grand-Duc Jean in Luxembourg.

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Glenn Ligon