Throughout his career, Glenn Ligon has considered problems of language and identity within American history and society, often through the appropriation of imagery and text drawn from literature and popular culture. A People on the Cover continues this approach, tracing the representation of black people in the United States on book covers.
This print dissects the cover of the landmark book Black Rage (1968), in which two psychiatrists examine the anger experienced by African-Americans in the face of persistent racism. Cracks, smudges, scribbles and yellowed tape are mapped out by a conservator, indicating the various flaws found on the cover due to age and wear.
Corresponding to Ligon's installation Good Mirrors Are Not Cheap (1992) at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, it illustrates the rich layers of history and meaning embedded within the artist's body of work.