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.
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