Ligon's paintings and prints frequently juxtapose pictures and captions, but in many cases, they consist of words alone, excerpted from famous writings by James Baldwin, Ralph Ellison, and Zora Neale Hurston, among others. His stenciling, which is deliberately smudged and frequently illegible, illustrates each author's message, even as he obfuscates their actual words. In the two black-on-white prints here, he repeats a different line from Hurston's essay "How it Feels to Be Colored Me" (1928): "I feel most colored when I am thrown against a sharp white background" and "I do not always feel colored." In the black-on-black prints, he repeats a single passage, with different line breaks, from Ellison's prologue for Invisible Man (1952): "I am an invisible man. No, I am not a spook like those who haunted Edgar Allan Poe; nor am I one of your Hollywood-movie ectoplasms. I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids - and I might even be said to possess a mind. I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me."
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Provocative Visions: Race and Identity–Selections from the Permanent Collection," August 19, 2008–March 22, 2009, no catalogue.