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.
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.