NEW YORK, October 26, 2012 – The New School has commissioned American artist Glenn Ligon to create his first permanent site-specific work in New York City for its new University Center, which is currently under construction on the corner of 14th Street and Fifth Avenue. The piece will be on view beginning Winter 2014.

"From the famed frescoes by José Clemente Orozco to Kara Walker’s recent Event Horizon, The New School has always celebrated art that challenges the status quo and reexamines history," said David Van Zandt, president of The New School. "Drawing on this legacy, we are very pleased to inaugurate one of The New School's newest and most striking spaces with Glenn Ligon's provocative and inspiring commission."

The commission, Ligon's most ambitious neon work to date, presents the artist's poignant and luminous investigation of the writings of one of New York City's most iconic and influential poets, Walt Whitman. Streams of neon text chosen from Leaves of Grass will travel around the perimeter walls of the University Center's first-floor Event Café. Ligon re-frames Whitman's lyrical meditations of the city, the body, temporality and the nature of the creative endeavor with a personal and political immediacy. In his continued explorations on the mutability of language, text, and representation, Ligon's incisive treatment of a canonical literary work simultaneously confronts the past and present and invites the viewer to engage in a critical dialogue with American culture, politics, and society.

"Whitman created a new space in which to consider the American experiment, and over one hundred and fifty years after its publication, the poems in 'Leaves of Grass' continue to echo throughout the culture," said Ligon. "The quotes in this piece are reflective of a space of encounter and transience, a restless space that in Whitman's poems is characteristic of the space of the city."

Glenn Ligon is a conceptual artist renowned for his text-based multi-media work, which focuses on issues of the self in society. Through his critical examinations of race, sexuality, and desire, Ligon offers a compelling and nuanced commentary on American history and sociopolitical themes. His work has been shown internationally, including the Tate Modern (2007), Documenta 11 (2002), the Venice Biennale (1997). In March, 2011, a mid-career retrospective, Glenn Ligon: AMERICA, opened at the Whitney Museum of American Art and traveled to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth. Solo museum exhibitions include the Power Plant, Toronto (2005) Dia Center for the Arts, New York, (2003) the Studio Museum in Harlem (2001), the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis (2000), the Brooklyn Museum of Art (1996), the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden (1992) and numerous other venues. Ligon, who received his B.A. from Wesleyan University in 1982, and attended the Whitney Museum Independent Study Program in 1985, has received grants and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, Art Matters, the Joan Mitchell Foundation and the Guggenheim Foundation. In October, Ligon will present Neon, at Luhring Augustine Gallery in Chelsea, which features several works that have never been shown in the U.S. His works are represented in numerous private and institutional collections, including the White House Art Collection.

The New School's University Center, designed by Skidmore, Owings and Merrill (SOM), is the first commissioned building for The New School since its landmark Joseph Urban building was erected in 1931 at 66 West 12th Street. The new building will house a performance space, library, flexible classrooms, study and social spaces, a cafeteria and a dormitory. This site was the first address for The New Museum, where curator Marcia Tucker, at the invitation of Vera List, a lifetime trustee of The New School, was given space to mount her first exhibitions.

The university has a longstanding tradition of supporting the creation of new art in public spaces. This began in 1931 with the opening of the University's landmark building, and the commissioning of works by Mexican artist José Clemente Orozco, American artist Thomas Hart Benton, and Ecuadorian artist Camilo Egas. Recent commissions include site-specific works by Sol Le Witt, Dave Muller, Martin Puryear and Michael Van Valkenburgh, Brian Tolle, and Kara Walker. The New School Art Collection, curated by Silvia Rocciolo and Eric Stark, was established in 1960 with a grant from the Albert A. List Foundation. Now grown to approximately 1,800 postwar and contemporary works of art, the collection encompasses nearly all media and works by some of the most innovative and creative artists of our time. For more information, please visit the collection's website at:

About The New School
The New School, a leading progressive university in New York City, was founded in 1919 as a center of intellectual and artistic freedom. Today The New School is still in the vanguard of innovation and experimentation in higher education, with more than 10,000 undergraduate and graduate students in design and the social sciences, the humanities, management, and the performing arts and thousands of adult learners in continuing education courses. Committed to public engagement, The New School welcomes thousands of New Yorkers yearly to its celebrated public programs and maintains a global presence through its online learning programs, research institutes, and international partnerships. Learn more at



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Media Contacts:

Sam Biederman,
Associate Director of University Communications
212.229.5667 x3094
[email protected]

Deborah Kirschner,
Associate Director of Arts Communications
212.229.5667 x4310
[email protected]

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