Created in the aftermath of the election, Glenn Ligon’s conceptualist text piece is officially titled Another Country (After James Baldwin), but it reads simply ANOTHER COUNTRY. Right now, that phrase resonates with pathos, fear, familiarity, and fury. It’s always there in America, this “another country” — we once fought a civil war to preclude that splitting from happening. In 1949, at the dawn of a different civil-rights conflict, Baldwin deepened, ironized, and weaponized this idea, protesting the “self-righteous, virtuous sentimentality” and “ostentatious parading of excessive and spurious emotion,” which he diagnosed as “dishonesty, the inability to feel,” and an “aversion to experience.” As for Ligon’s sign, it is neither protest nor poetry. Each viewer reads it differently. Some will take pride in this new “another country” that has apparently risen. Others will feel this another country dawning with a foreboding that we in America haven’t experienced since the times of Lincoln and Martin Luther King.
Another Country (After James Baldwin) is currently on display at the Petzel Gallery.
*This article appears in the February 6, 2017, issue of New York Magazine.