Look up in the sky! It’s … it’s a … it’s a hashtag! Yes, right there, in the air, under the scorching mid-day sun, in our view, it’s a gosh-darn hashtag — skywriting of #AMERICA — letters fading and floating apart, ephemeral, as we walk the back streets of Venice in Los Angeles on July Fourth, America’s Independence Day holiday.
Artist Glenn Ligon‘s “Double America 2” is among the most profound works of contemporary American art, and it is profoundly American. It’s absolutely brilliant.
The artwork can read on several levels. At its core is the idea of there being two different Americas or American experiences largely due to race, and, more pointedly, to racism, discrimination and its place in the nation’s history.
It points to the psychology of identity, the sense of black and white, rich and poor, haves and have-nots, exterior image and interior reality, something bright — and brightly lit — and ideal versus something gravely wrong, upside down, dark and flickering.
We’ve seen this artwork several times over the years elsewhere in museums around the U.S. and the world. We recently viewed it at the Broad Museum in Los Angeles (pictured here). It’s the first time we’ve seen Ligon’s artwork since the U.S. Presidential campaign and election of Donald Trump, an event that brought the startling breadth of the nation’s cultural, economic, racial and political divides into the sharpest focus.
“Double America 2” seems a perfectly pointed and symbolic visual meme for the times, for the condition of the United States in the politically divisive, ugly “Trump Era.”
The white neon-light “America” sign (titled Rückenfigur) by New York-based artist Glenn Ligon at the “Human Nature” contemporary art exhibition at the Los Angeles Country Museum of Art (or LACMA).