Part of Glenn Ligon’s AMERICA, his mid-career retrospective at LACMA. I was particularly drawn to these paintings.
Notes from LACMA:
During a residency at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis in 2000, Ligon held workshops in which children were invited to fill in images taken from coloring books from the 1960s and 1970s that were intended to foster cultural knowledge and pride among black children. The books included historical and contemporary African Americans, including Harriet Tubman, Malcom X, and Isaac Hayes.
The participating children hailed from diverse ethnic backgrounds and were mostly unaware of the figures they colored or the ideological agenda they were meant to promote. Sometimes they painted them a deep brown, but in other instances afros became bright orange, Frederick Douglass’ eyes blue, and Hayes’ beard blond.
These images became the basis for the paintings… “Icons are made and remade,” he has remarked. “The project is about getting at that mutability through these kids’ drawings and my reiterations of them… The slipperiness of the images…and the anxiety around that slipperiness was interesting to me.”