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Self Portrait #7, 1996

Glenn Ligon

Whitney Museum of American Art, New York

Glenn Ligon used grainy black-and-white screenprinting, high-key lighting, and a centered composition to give this self-portrait the look and feel of a police mug shot. However, in a gesture that would make the image functionally useless in a criminal case, Ligon turns his face away from the viewer, showing only the back of his head. In so doing, the artist resists both the conventions of portraiture and a mode of representation too often associated with black male criminality. Self Portrait #7 is part of a series of similarly grainy self-portraits—some of which feature the back of his head and others his profile.

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