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Subject to Revision

Amid dozens of artworks stridently addressing the politics of identity at the infamously “PC” 1993 Whitney Biennial, Glenn Ligon’s Notes on the Margin of the Black Book took a more elliptical and ambiguous approach. This elegantly conceived structural amendment to Robert Mapplethorpe’s Black Book consisted of two rows of individually framed images, appropriated directly from the photographer’s controversial series of black male nudes. In the newly expanded “margin” between the photographs, Ligon inserted all manner of uniformly typed texts on race and sexuality, appropriated from heretofore unrelated commentators, ranging from high theorists and articulate drag queens to conservative politicians and zealous evangelists. Yet what Ligon was really inserting into the margins was himself. Insisting on the double connotation of “margin,” he slyly suggested that as a black, gay artist, he’d

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