Glenn Ligon’s Panel 61

The story of migration is ongoing. In the final, 60th panel of The Migration Series, Jacob Lawrence leaves us with the words “And the migrants keep coming.” The Phillips has invited contemporary artists to continue Jacob Lawrence’s work. Check the recently launched Jacob Lawrence website for additional works to be unveiled in this dynamic curated selection, or contribute your own #Panel61.


Glenn Ligon, Rückenfigur, 2009. Neon, Edition of 3 with 2 artist’s proofs, 24 x 145 1/2 x 4 in.

Glenn Ligon, Rückenfigur

Glenn Ligon’s Rückenfigur (2009) is an example of the artist’s painted neon sculptures. Ligon is best known for exploring the limits and meaning of language with his text‐based work. In this piece, neon letters spell out “America,” Ligon’s homeland, and a frequent subject of his practice. The title “Rückenfigur” is a German term for a figure seen from behind; often used in an art historical context, it describes a figure in the foreground of a painting, surveying the scene before him, with his back to the viewer. Likewise, although the word “America” is legible to its audience, the letters face the wall, away from the viewer—the non‐symmetrical letters indicating the characters’ true direction. Ligon reveals the back of the word, inviting a consideration of multiple points of view and dichotomies in American culture.

One Billion Breaths in a Lifetime

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Installing Jill O’Bryan’s one billion breaths in a lifetime (2015). All photos: Amy Wike

You might notice something new the next time you pass the corner of 21st and Q Streets NW. Installation of artist Jill O’Bryan‘s one billion breaths in a lifetime was completed earlier this week. The text of the 16-foot-wide chrome sculpture is a calculation the artist made while creating a series of drawings recording her own breaths to capture time; it takes approximately 97 years to breath one billion breaths.

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Tools of the installation trade.

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Trimming the supports to the correct height.

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Installing Jill O’Bryan’s one billion breaths in a lifetime.

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Artist Jill O’Bryan assessing placement of her work.

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(left) Senior Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art Vesela Sretenovic and artist Jill O’Bryan discuss the work as it’s installed (right) one billion breaths in a lifetime is prepped for final placement.

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The installations team makes sure the work is level before securing the piece at the corner of 21st and Q NW.

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Artist Jill O’Bryan looks on as her piece is installed.