Rückenfigur, by Glenn Ligon, 2009

Glenn Ligon, Artist
Rückenfigur , 2009

Neon, black paint
24 x 145 1/2 x 4 in. (61 x 369.6 x 10.2 cm)
Credit Line
Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Gift of the 2010 Collectors Committee. Installation view at the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; photography by Brian Forrest

Rückenfigur is from a group of neon works by Glenn Ligon that spell out the word America, using this motif to explore the dualities found in contemporary society. Because the letters A, I, and M in the word AMERICA are symmetrical, we initially read the word normally before it registers that the letters have in fact been reversed to face the wall. The work takes its title from a German art historical term for a landscape painting that includes a figure seen from behind. Like the figure in one of these historical paintings, the viewer seems to be both implicated in the work and standing on the outside.