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Glenn Ligon, in collaboration with The Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia. Skin Tight (detail), 1995. Cotton canvas, leather, vinyl, pigment, and metal chain. Eight bags: 45 to 51 inches (height) x 13 inches (diameter) (114.3 to 129.54 x 33.02 cm) each. Edition of 7. Photo credit: Aaron Igler. Glenn Ligon, in collaboration with The Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia. Skin Tight (detail), 1995. Cotton canvas, leather, vinyl, pigment, and metal chain. Eight bags: 45 to 51 inches (height) x 13 inches (diameter) (114.3 to 129.54 x 33.02 cm) each. Edition of 7. Photo credit: Matthew Suib. Glenn Ligon, in collaboration with The Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia. Skin Tight (installation view), 1995. Cotton canvas, leather, vinyl, pigment, and metal chain. Eight bags: 45 to 51 inches (height) x 13 inches (diameter) (114.3 to 129.54 x 33.02 cm). Edition of 7. Photo credit: Will Brown.
Glenn Ligon, in collaboration with The Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia. Skin Tight (detail), 1995. Cotton canvas, leather, vinyl, pigment, and metal chain. Eight bags: 45 to 51 inches (height) x 13 inches (diameter) (114.3 to 129.54 x 33.02 cm) each. Edition of 7. Photo credit: Aaron Igler.
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Glenn Ligon, in collaboration with The Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia. Skin Tight (detail), 1995. Cotton canvas, leather, vinyl, pigment, and metal chain. Eight bags: 45 to 51 inches (height) x 13 inches (diameter) (114.3 to 129.54 x 33.02 cm) each. Edition of 7. Photo credit: Matthew Suib.
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Glenn Ligon, in collaboration with The Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia. Skin Tight (installation view), 1995. Cotton canvas, leather, vinyl, pigment, and metal chain. Eight bags: 45 to 51 inches (height) x 13 inches (diameter) (114.3 to 129.54 x 33.02 cm). Edition of 7. Photo credit: Will Brown.
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Glenn Ligon

Skin Tight is Glenn Ligon’s first major sculptural work. Building on his Whitney Museum project—a single standard-issue punching bag with stencilled text borrowed from The Greatest, a film about Muhammad Ali—Skin Tight is an investigation into the form and symbolism of the punching bag and its connection to American societal ideas of black men, boxing, and rap music.

Though Ligon wanted this series of eight punching bags to look and feel like authentic bags, he also wanted to individualize each bag and create a strong statement formed by a series of distinct “voices.” A standard Everlast™ bag was disassembled and used as a pattern for making the series in a range of fabrics, including canvas, vinyl, and satin. Ligon then designed patterns for silkscreen printing—one bag depicts an image of Muhammad Ali, another the rapper Ice Cube’s glaring eyes. A black vinyl bag is printed with the altered logo “Thuglife,” which alludes not only to the Everlast™ logo but also to the slogan tattooed on the late rap artist Tupac Shakur. One bag is covered with clear plastic pockets, a reference to the idea that the image of any opponent could be inserted and used to rouse the anger of the punching bag’s user.

Collectively, the punching bags of Skin Tight convey a physical presence, as if each bag represents a body, and specifically a black male body. One is glorified and heightened with the sheen of satin fabric; another, made from black vinyl, is slumped on the floor, a defeated and limp form.

Bio
American, born 1960, lives in New York City.
Raised in the South Bronx, Glenn Ligon earned his BA in 1982 from Wesleyan University and later studied in the Whitney Museum Independent Study Program (1985). He is most known for his paintings of literary text, usually borrowed from pivotal African American writers such as James Baldwin and Ralph Ellison. His work has been exhibited widely throughout the United States, including one-person exhibitions at the Walker Arts Center, Minneapolis (2000); the Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia (1998); and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (1996). Curator Thelma Golden included Ligon in her acclaimed 1994 group exhibition entitled Black Male: Representations of Masculinity in Contemporary American Art, organized for the Whitney Museum of American Art. For that exhibition, Ligon created a collaborative project with Byron Kim—a punching bag with stenciled text.