Glenn Ligon, untitled, 2012, newspaper collage, 12 x 10 1/2".

Glenn Ligon

Glenn Ligon, untitled, 2012, newspaper collage, 12 x 10 1/2".

A COUPLE MONTHS AGO, I was at the Museum of Modern Art in New York looking at Jasper Johns’s masterful Flag, 1954–55, when I noticed a young man standing right behind me. I assumed he was waiting his turn to do the close reading of the work that I was doing, but then I realized that he was facing away from the painting toward his girlfriend, who was holding a cell phone and waiting for me to move so she could take a picture of him. It occurred to me that for many people, to look is to photograph, and looking is a social experience, an act to be captured on a phone and disseminated to friends.

For several decades I have worked primarily with text, making paintings, prints, and installations that encourage a viewer to oscillate between reading and looking. Recently I have started making collages based on de Kooning paintings. Unlike my earlier work, the collages are more about looking

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