Bowdoin College Museum of Art

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Glenn Ligon



Creation Date


Medium & Support

lithograph on paper


16 in. x 12 in. (40.64 cm x 30.48 cm)

Credit Line

Museum Purchase, Lloyd O. and Marjorie Strong Coulter Fund, © Glenn Ligon; Courtesy of the artist, Luhring Augustine, New York, Regen Projects, Los Angeles, and Thomas Dane Gallery, London

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The relationship between the languages of words and images plays a key role in the artist’s lithographic series "Runaways". To create the cycle, Ligon asked a series of friends to create descriptions by which others might recognize him, and then matched these “word portraits” with nineteenth-century emblems depicting escaped slaves. The powerful disjunctions that resulted provoke questions concerning the nature of our knowledge and understanding of one another, suggesting the inadequacy of linguistic description and other systems of representation. By invoking the history of slavery, Ligon examines the larger social and historical forces that shape personal identity, interrogating our ability to overcome, whether as subjects or observers, the perceptions and roles these may reinforce.

Additional Images

Image: 2003.21.5.jpg
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Portfolios: OLD_FEATC|EDUC2221_181025|Fay|Speech and Protest in America   Collections: African American - Works on paper   Collections: African American   Collections: Works on paper - American Prints   Collections: Works on paper