Every year the Studio Museum Harlem hands out what is basically the biggest award for contemporary African American artists, the Joyce Alexander Wein Artist Prize (named for the wife of famous philanthropist and jazz musician George Wein), which amounts to about $50,000. According to Artforum, last week the museum’s director and chief curator Thelma Golden announced that the winner of the award for 2009 is post-Pop artist Glenn Ligon.
Ligon, who was born in the Bronx and is based in New York, uses text, typography and neons in ways reminiscent of Jasper Johns and Bruce Nauman, but with pointedly racialized themes. His work flows swiftly between a kind of biting, sarcastic humor, aggression and confrontation, keeping viewers a little on edge even as they laugh at his punchy neons. Ligon hasn’t been the subject of a solo show in New York since 2001, but his work will be featured in the show 30 Seconds of an Inch, which opens next week at the Studio Museum.