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Untitled (I Am a Man), a 1988 painting by Ligon, takes its text from signs carried by striking black sanitation workers in Memphis in 1968. The slogan ‘I Am a Man’ was a way of protesting that they were equal to their white counterparts, who were paid more for doing the same job. Here Ligon juxtaposes a reproduction of the 1988 painting with another that has been annotated by a conservator making a condition report on the work. The imperfections noted might simultaneously be read as a questioning of the self as well as recording the frailties of the object.

June 2010