An Invisible Man

Untitled: Four Etchings

This etching by Glenn Ligon interprets the prologue from Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man:

“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. Like the bodiless heads you see sometimes in circus sideshows, it is as though I have been surrounded by mirrors of hard, distorting glass. When they approach me they see only my surroundings, themselves, or figments of their imagination — indeed, everything and anything except me.”

The print is from a 1992 series of four called Untitled: Four Etchings [A–D]. Parts A & B deploy language from Zora Neale Hurston’s “How It Feels to Be Colored Me,” printed in black ink on white paper. Parts C & D present the Ellison text, printed in black ink on black paper. The prints recall Ligon’s slightly earlier oil stick stencil works.

Untitled: Four Etchings

It’s been over twenty years since Ligon’s prints were made (which was forty years after Ellison’s text was published). The text remains as potent as ever.

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