Regen Projects | Glenn Ligon and Gillian Wearing

“Double Negative” and “reflections” Ponder Polysemy

Written by

Annie Bush

Photographed by

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Installation view of Glenn Ligon, DOUBLE NEGATIVE. Regen Projects, Los Angeles. November 3 – December 23, 2023

This month, Regen Projects is running two simultaneous exhibitions: Glenn Ligon’s Double Negative and Gillian Wearing’s reflections. On view until December 23rd, the exhibitions will be the artists’ seventh and fifth with Regen Projects, respectively. Wearing and Ligon are hailed as titans of the contemporary art industry, prodding at the transmutable soul of previously articulated bodies of work. Where Ligon uses literal, often historically lauded textual works as the basis upon which he elucidates his vision of desire, race, sexuality, and politics, Wearing’s paintings are predicated on previously known luminaries, as well as photographs and other visual works. The two exhibitions, placed in conversation with one another, encroach on the territory of inherent textual meaning: when the body of the work is rendered uncanny– or, in the case of Ligon, nearly unrecognizable– where does the meaning begin? Where does the body end?

Installation view of Gillian Wearing, reflections. Regen Projects, Los Angeles. November 3 – December 23, 2022

Ligon’s Double Negative gestures towards work produced nearly two decades ago. Double Negative revisits an essay from 2004, “Black Light: David Hammons and the Poetics of Emptiness,” and also includes paintings inscribed with passages from James Baldwin’s 1953 essay, “Stranger in the Village.” Ligon uses the X symbol as a polysemic tool: either one that invokes a signature (an addition of meaning), one that invokes censorship (the deliberate obscuration of meaning), or one that invokes history (reminding one of political symbols like Malcolm X). Drawing a taut, through line between historical figures like Baldwin and Malcolm X, Ligon’s past self, and his current self, Double Negative explores the idea of imagined language, of ideas created through absence. 

Installation view of Glenn Ligon DOUBLE NEGATIVE. Regen Projects, Los Angeles. November 3 – December 23, 2023

Conversely, Wearing’s reflections prods at a sort of hyperreality– reflections adds to the  "Spiritual Family" series, with Wearing rendering herself as the Renaissance painter Artemisia Gentileschi in one notable work, as well as appropriating Rembrandt’s distinct style to produce images of herself in Rembrandt's Eyes (2023). Through a near constant replication and mutilation of familiar motifs and shapes, Wearing toys with the corrosive, unidentifiable qualities of reality, inviting viewers to inspect their relationships with their own identities while viewing the artist herself as a subject of interpretation. Warping the architectures of the known, reflections settles in the discombobulating structures of the knowable future, the foreign present, and an increasingly distant past.

Installation view of Gillian Wearing,reflections. Regen Projects, Los Angeles. November 3 – December 23, 2023.
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Regen Projects, Glenn Ligon, Gillian Wearing, Annie Bush, Art