Advanced Search

K-12 Educator
K-12 Student
Museum Visitor
UMMA Docent
UMMA Staff
University Faculty
University Student
Between and Mortarboard

UMMA Object Specific Fields

Query builder

13 Items in this Learning Collection
Collection Object
Collection Object
Collection Object
Collection Object
Collection Object
Collection Object
Collection Object
Collection Object
Collection Object
Collection Object
Collection Object
Collection Object

All Rights Reserved ()


Accession Number


Glenn Ligon

Object Creation Date

Medium & Support
etching, aquatint, spitbite, and sugarlift on Rives BFK paper

25 in x 17 1/4 in (63.5 cm x 43.82 cm);32 3/16 in x 26 3/16 in (81.76 cm x 66.52 cm)

Credit Line
Museum Purchase

Label copy
Since childhood, Glenn Ligon has been fascinated with literature. This fascination led him to think about the political and social uses of languages. As a result, his art has focused on giving force and weight to the written word around issues of identity and race. Ligon selects phrases from works by writers such as James Baldwin, Ralph Ellison, Mary Shelley, and Jean Genet, then hand stencils these phrases onto canvas or the printing plate. Often the text becomes obscured as it progresses line by line, calling into question the reliability of seeing and seeing each other.
In Untitled (I Am An Invisible Man), Ligon draws upon a phrase from Ellison’s The Invisible Man. He transforms legibility into illegibility and investigates how people see and read—how they witness an incident and judge people subjectively or objectively. He is looking at the rationalization of race as well as self-identification. Speaking about this work, Ligon remarked that "...Ellison uses the metaphor of invisibility to describe the position of blacks in this country, as ghost, present and real but because of the blindness of racism, unseen. [My] prints work with this idea of invisibility by making the viewer strain to read the text, but making the text, through embossing, have a lot of physical presence."
Sean M. Ulmer, University Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, for "A Matter of Degree: Abstraction in Twentieth-Century Art," November 10, 2001 - January 27, 2002

Subject matter
One of a suite of four etchings, this work quotes the first few sentences from the prologue of Ralph Ellison's novel "The Invisible Man." The 1952 novel about race and identity describes the challenges of living as a black man in American society. Ligon's work does not exclusively cite texts by African Americans, but instead he appropriates a wide variety of source material in order to bring attention to the connections and relationships between his own history and collective experience.

Physical Description
This print has rows of stencilled black text in all capital letters on black background. In pencil, the print is signed and dated (l.r.) "Glenn Lignon '92" and numbered (l.l.) "27/45". 

Primary Object Classification

Collection Area
Modern and Contemporary

If you are interested in using an image for a publication, please visit for more information and to fill out the online Image Rights and Reproductions Request Form.

African American
aquatint (printing process)
etching (printing process)
literature (writings)
modern and contemporary art
text (layout feature)

66 Related Resources

(Part of 5 Learning Collections)
U.S. Radicalism
(Part of 10 Learning Collections)
F15 Tariq - ENGLISH 125 - Black American Protest
(Part of: U.S. Freedom Struggles of the Long 1960s)
F15 Berrey - AMCULT 103 / HISTORY 197 - Say it Loud: Black Culture in America
(Part of: U.S. Freedom Struggles of the Long 1960s)
F14 Ellsworth - AAS 104 - Nonviolence: From Montgomery to the World
(Part of: U.S. Freedom Struggles of the Long 1960s)
Postcolonial Art
(Part of 6 Learning Collections)
Race, Gender, Class, and American Identity
(Part of 10 Learning Collections)
Sp16 Morales - AMCULT 204 - Race and Nation in Film Genres
(Part of: Teaching American Studies at UMMA)
W16 Steward - HISTORY 197 - Crossing the Color Line
(Part of: Teaching American Studies at UMMA)
Social Justice
(Part of 3 Learning Collections)
Social Justice and Art, 1969-today
(Part of 3 Learning Collections)
Speaking With and Without Words
(Part of 2 Learning Collections)
Visual Adaptations of Literature
(Part of 2 Learning Collections)
Glenn Ligon Essay    
(Part of 3 Learning Collections)
Past Study Case Display - Art and Protest
(Part of: FFW Lower Level Study Cases     )
W19 Heaton - LING 340 - Introduction to Sociolinguistics
(Part of: Examples of Past Course Collections)
Docent Materials for Teaching: Toolbox
(Part of: Docent Information From Training Continuing Education Sessions)
Living Rooms/ Windows
(Part of: Collection Ensemble)
Docent Resources for Meleko Mokgosi: Pan-African Pulp Commission
(Part of: Docent Information From Training Continuing Education Sessions)
W20 Hicks - ALA 122 / PSYCH 122 / SOC 122 - Intergroup Dialogues
(Part of: Examples of Past Course Collections)

& Author Notes

All Rights Reserved

On display