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.
Print says… RAN AWAY, Glenn, a black male, 5’8”, very short hair cut, nearly completely shaved, stocky build, 155-165 lbs., medium complexion (not “light skinned,” not “dark skinned,” slightly orange). Wearing faded blue jeans, short sleeve button-down 50’s style shirt, nice glasses (small, oval shaped), no socks. Very articulate, seemingly well-educated, does not look at you straight in the eye when talking to you. He’s socially very adept, yet, paradoxically, he’s somewhat of a loner.
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