It’s a little off the beaten path but if you’re in London for Frieze and anywhere near the town’s northwest section (or “Zadie Smith country,” as the locals colorfully call it), you owe it to yourself to swing by the Camden Arts Centre to see Glenn Ligon’s tight show of new work there.
The exhibition introduces two new paintings, one new video and a two-piece neon work that blinks on and off in an eerie pattern tied to Steve Reich’s Come Out, which samples from the testimony of Daniel Hamm, one of the Harlem Six. “I had to, like, open the bruise up, and let some of the bruise blood come out to show them,” the police, that he had been wounded, Hamm says in Come Out. This is chopped and looped until Hamm’s slip of tongue between the word “blue” and “bruise” becomes not just noticeable but perhaps the crux of story. So, Untitled (Bruise/Blues) (2014) is those words written in big blue neon, spaced so they take up all the room, with that gap rendered in three dimensions. You can walk in it.
Come Out also inspired the two new paintings, which layers the phrase “Come out to show them” over itself until it’s almost illegible. One darkens left to right, the other right to left, so the words are foundation, whether they emerge or disappear.
The last piece, Live (2014), uses multiple screens to project various parts of Richard Prior’s body from Live on Sunset Strip (1982), his first big show since his freebasing accident. “When that fire hit your ass, it will sober your ass up quick!” he says during the set. “I saw something, I went, ‘Well, that’s a pretty blue. You know what? That looks like fire!'” Ligon removed the audio for the piece, but Prior remains dissociated from himself—or in this case his self—dissected. His hands signify without context. His face appears to be in pain. The microphone seems never to move.
Camden Arts Center is an almost suburban-feeling space, and its quaintness only amplifies all this. You probably won’t have cause to be up there, but if you do, swing by!