Artist Glenn Ligon was invited by Art in Embassies curator Virginia Shore and Tate Modern curator Marko Daniels, to be the sixth speaker for the American Artist Lecture Series at Tate Modern, a collaboration with US Embassy London and Tate Modern, which has presented six noted American Artists at the Starr Auditorium and is aiming to feature six more in the next years.
Throughout his career, Glenn Ligon has conducted 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 landmark series of highly textured text-based paintings. Ligon’s practice also encompasses neon, photography, sculptures, print, installation, and video.
On May 11, 2015, Glenn Ligon was in conversation with London-based designer and curator Duro Olowu, about his career, his influences, and the connections between traditions and inspiration. The at-capacity auditorium, filled with students, artists and general interested public, was presented a riveting conversation between Ligon and Olowu. Slides that were selected by the artist and moderator showed images that have proven inspirational to both Ligon and Olowu. Even though certain images such as African fabrics and images of work by Annie Albers did not show an immediate connection to Ligon’s oeuvre, the artist explained during his talk how this collage of works, can spark ideas, define possible color choices, refer to patterning and rhythms and with patience and time to percolate, can become the background for the final work.
As Ligon explained about his own artistic practice, artists’ work does not come out of a vacuum, but is deeply influenced by different dialogues and formal juxtapositions. Over the course of a career, the frame of reference for these dialogues, which the artist refers to as a “virtual museum in our heads,” is the result of encounters with others. As part of his conversation with Duro Olowu, Ligon asked the audience to consider how these dialogues with other artists and histories, makes us the artists we become.