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

All Rights Reserved ()


Accession Number


Glenn Ligon; Gregory Burnet

Artist Nationality
American (North American)

Object Creation Date

Medium & Support
etching, aquatint, spitbite, 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 stenciled 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 http://umma.umich.edu/request-image 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)

24 Related Resources

U.S. Radicalism
(Part of 10 Learning Collections)
Borders of Identity in North America
(Part of 14 Learning Collections)
Postcolonial Art
(Part of 6 Learning Collections)
Race, Gender, Class, and American Identity
(Part of 11 Learning Collections)
Social Justice
(Part of 3 Learning Collections)
Social Justice and Art, 1969-today
(Part of 4 Learning Collections)
Visual Adaptations of Literature
(Part of 2 Learning Collections)
Glenn Ligon Essay    
(Part of 3 Learning Collections)
American History Abridged 
(Part of: Teaching United States History through Art )
Living Rooms/ Windows
(Part of 2 Learning Collections)
Docent Resources for Meleko Mokgosi: Pan-African Pulp Commission
(Part of: Docent Information From Training Continuing Education Sessions)

& Author Notes

All Rights Reserved

On display

UMMA Gallery Location ➜ FFW, 2nd floor ➜ 218 (Eleanor Noyes Crumpacker)