If you were to visit the White House, you would find the work of the groundbreaking African-American artist and Bronx native Glenn Ligon. The Obamas selected his 1992 work, Black Like Me No. 2, which repeats the phrase, “All the traces of the Griffin I had been were wiped from existence,” a line from John Howard Griffin’s famous book, until the text gradually blurs and becomes illegible. Ligon, who is gay, rose up in the late 1980s and early 1990s as the leader of a movement in art that defiantly challenged traditional definitions of race and sexuality. The Whitney presents his first comprehensive mid-career retrospective of about 100 works, including paintings, prints, photography, drawings, and sculptural installations. On March 23 at 8, see his latest video piece, “The Death of Tom,” an “abstractionist recreation” of the final scene of Edwin S. Porter’s 1903 silent movie Uncle Tom’s Cabin, with a new soundtrack by jazz pianist Jason Moran. A talk with Ligon and Moran will follow the performance.

Wed., March 23, 8 p.m., 2011