Absorption/Reflexion – Oberflächem bei Kerry James Marshall und Glen Ligon


  • Antje Krause-Wahl




Antje Krause-Wahl

Absorption/Reflection. The Painted Surfaces of Kerry James Marshall and Glenn Ligon

This article explores how Marshall and Ligon use the colors black and white to reflect alterity and hybridity in contemporary painting. By comparing the strategies of the two artists, who became known in Europe through documentas X and XI, this article makes clear that their use of black differs: Marshall works with an absorbing color, drawing attention to the invisibility of black (art) history, while at the same time creating images with which an African-American community can identify. In contrast, Glenn Ligon’s shimmering surfaces made out of coal dust can be linked to the discourse surrounding the images of black skin in Robert Mapplethorpe’s Black Book. Ligon’s paintings not only attract the gaze but also obscure it, a process that underscores how we view the unknown “other”. Furthermore, the reflecting and absorbing surfaces play with references to abstract expressionism in queering their “male black”.