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Glenn Ligon: Distinguishing Piss from Rain; Writings and Interviews

Sale price$38.00

Estimated shipping date – late July

This long-awaited and essential publication collects three decades of writings by and interviews with Glenn Ligon, whose work has delivered an incisive examination of race, history, sexuality, and culture in America since his emergence as an artist in the late 1980s.

No stranger to the written word, Ligon has routinely used text from the work of James Baldwin, Zora Neale Hurston, Gertrude Stein, Richard Pryor, and others to create art that centers Blackness within the historically white backdrop of the art world and American culture. He began writing in the early 2000s, engaging deeply with the work of peers such as Julie Mehretu, Chris Ofili, and Lorna Simpson, as well as that of artists who came before him, among them Philip Guston, David Hammons, and Andy Warhol. Throughout these writings, Ligon combines razor-sharp insight with anecdotes and autobiographical details, providing the fullest picture yet of the artist and his ongoing evaluation of the art and politics of our time.

Complementing the essays are illuminating interviews with Helga Davis, Thelma Golden, Byron Kim, Hamza Walker, and others, as well as an introduction by writer and curator Thomas (T.) Jean Lax.

Glenn Ligon: Distinguishing Piss from Rain; Writings and Interviews
Glenn Ligon: Distinguishing Piss from Rain; Writings and Interviews Sale price$38.00

'Glenn Ligon is among the great artists of our time or any time. Words are among the materials he knows how to wield with irony, wit, multivalence, and directness. In this brilliant collection of his essays and interviews, Ligon’s polyphony speaks out with a resonance sharpened by acuity and hilarity, and with an intellectual luminousness that continues to determine how I see the world.'

Wayne Koestenbaum

'What a delight―to read the artwork in the world through Glenn Ligon’s brilliant, incisive eye.'

Saidiya Hartman

'Ligon gives us much feeling with few words. What else is there to do when you read him but exclaim ‘Boop!’ or audibly exhale?'

Thomas (T.) Jean Lax




Hauser & Wirth Publishers




Introduction by Thomas (T.) Jean Lax. Text by and interviews with Glenn Ligon. Edited by James Hoff.


344 pages


16.5 cm x 24.1 cm



Publication Date

July 2024

The Artist


Glenn Ligon was born in the Bronx, New York, in 1960. He graduated with a BA from Wesleyan University in 1982 and participated in the Whitney Museum’s Independent Study Program in 1985. His early paintings were largely abstract; he began adding language to them during the mid-1980s in order to explore questions around race, identity, and history. In the text-based works for which he is best known, Ligon looks to prominent writers and cultural figures such as Zora Neale Hurston, Ralph Ellison, Gertrude Stein, Jean Genet, James Baldwin, and Richard Pryor for source material. In addition to making paintings, works on paper, and prints, he began creating neons in 2005, incorporating a sculptural component into his practice. His work has been shown in numerous group exhibitions, including the Venice Biennale (1997, 2015), Berlin Biennial (2014), Istanbul Biennial (2011, 2019), and Documenta XI (2002). In 2011, the Whitney Museum of American Art presented 'America', a comprehensive midcareer retrospective organized by Scott Rothkopf. Recent painting series include Debris Field and Static, which see Ligon move increasingly toward abstraction and varying degrees of legibility to reflect on the instability and limits of language in a “post-truth” world. He is also deeply engaged with the work of other artists and undertakes curatorial projects such as 'Blue Black' at the Pulitzer Arts Foundation, Saint Louis, Missouri (2017), and 'Glenn Ligon: All Over the Place' at the Fitzwilliam Museum, University of Cambridge, England (2024). Ligon lives and works in New York.