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Ellen Gallagher

Ellen Gallagher, Odalisque, 2005 Gelatin silver print with watercolor and gold leaf, 15 ¼ × 14 ¼ inches framed (38.7 × 36.2 cm), edition of 15

Ellen Gallagher, Odalisque, 2005

Gelatin silver print with watercolor and gold leaf, 15 ¼ × 14 ¼ inches framed (38.7 × 36.2 cm), edition of 15

Installation view, Ellen Gallagher: AxME, Haus der Kunst, Munich, 2014 Artwork © Ellen Gallagher. Photo: Wilfried Petzi

Installation view, Ellen Gallagher: AxME, Haus der Kunst, Munich, 2014

Artwork © Ellen Gallagher. Photo: Wilfried Petzi

Edgar Cleijne & Ellen Gallagher, Osedax, 2010

Edgar Cleijne & Ellen Gallagher, Osedax, 2010

Ellen Gallagher, Bird in Hand, 2006 Oil, pencil, gold, plasticine, gold leaf, and paper on canvas, 93 ¾ × 120 ⅞ inches (238 × 307 cm)

Ellen Gallagher, Bird in Hand, 2006

Oil, pencil, gold, plasticine, gold leaf, and paper on canvas, 93 ¾ × 120 ⅞ inches (238 × 307 cm)

Installation view of works by Ellen Gallagher, La Triennale—Intense Proximité, Palais de Tokyo, Paris, 2012 Artwork © Ellen Gallagher

Installation view of works by Ellen Gallagher, La Triennale—Intense Proximité, Palais de Tokyo, Paris, 2012

Artwork © Ellen Gallagher

Ellen Gallagher, Greasy, 2011 Ink, oil, graphite, and printed paper on canvas, 79 ½ × 74 inches (202 × 188 cm)

Ellen Gallagher, Greasy, 2011

Ink, oil, graphite, and printed paper on canvas, 79 ½ × 74 inches (202 × 188 cm)

Ellen Gallagher, An Experiment of Unusual Opportunity, 2008 Ink, graphite, oil, varnish, and cut paper on canvas, 79 ½ × 74 inches (202 × 188 cm)

Ellen Gallagher, An Experiment of Unusual Opportunity, 2008

Ink, graphite, oil, varnish, and cut paper on canvas, 79 ½ × 74 inches (202 × 188 cm)

Installation view, Ellen Gallagher: eXelento, Gagosian, West 24th Street, New York, 2004 Artwork © Ellen Gallagher

Installation view, Ellen Gallagher: eXelento, Gagosian, West 24th Street, New York, 2004

Artwork © Ellen Gallagher

Installation view, Ellen Gallagher: eXelento, Gagosian, West 24th Street, New York, 2004 Artwork © Ellen Gallagher

Installation view, Ellen Gallagher: eXelento, Gagosian, West 24th Street, New York, 2004

Artwork © Ellen Gallagher

Ellen Gallagher, Watery Ecstatic series, 2001 Ink, oil, pencil, and cut paper on paper, 22 ¼ × 30 inches (56.5 × 76.2 cm)

Ellen Gallagher, Watery Ecstatic series, 2001

Ink, oil, pencil, and cut paper on paper, 22 ¼ × 30 inches (56.5 × 76.2 cm)

Ellen Gallagher, They could still serve, 2001 Pigment, paper, and glue on linen, 120 × 96 inches (304.8 × 243.8 cm)

Ellen Gallagher, They could still serve, 2001

Pigment, paper, and glue on linen, 120 × 96 inches (304.8 × 243.8 cm)

Ellen Gallagher, Blubber, 2000 Ink, pencil, and paper on linen, 120 × 192 inches (304.8 × 487.7 cm)

Ellen Gallagher, Blubber, 2000

Ink, pencil, and paper on linen, 120 × 192 inches (304.8 × 487.7 cm)

Ellen Gallagher, Blubber, 2000 (detail) Ink, pencil, and paper on linen, 120 × 192 inches (304.8 × 487.7 cm)

Ellen Gallagher, Blubber, 2000 (detail)

Ink, pencil, and paper on linen, 120 × 192 inches (304.8 × 487.7 cm)

Ellen Gallagher, Blubber, 2000 (detail) Ink, pencil, and paper on linen, 120 × 192 inches (304.8 × 487.7 cm)

Ellen Gallagher, Blubber, 2000 (detail)

Ink, pencil, and paper on linen, 120 × 192 inches (304.8 × 487.7 cm)

About

What is crucial to my making of a language and a cosmology of signs is the type of repetition that is central to a lot of the music I am listening to right now. . . . I start off with a limited class of signs and, like stacking in music, I chop and revisit the changes to build structure.
—Ellen Gallagher

Through processes of accretion, erasure, and extraction, Ellen Gallagher has invented a densely saturated visual language in which overlapping patterns, motifs, and materials pulse with life. By fusing narrative modes including poetry, film, music, and collage, she recalibrates the tensions between reality and fantasy—unsettling designations of race and nation, art and artifact, and allowing the familiar and the arcane to converge.

Born in Providence, Rhode Island, Gallagher attended Oberlin College, Ohio; artist Michael Skop’s private art school Studio 70; the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (graduating in 1992 and receiving a traveling scholar award in 1993); and the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, Maine (1993). Her interests in these years spanned across disciplines and time periods, including oceanography, microscopic life, popular media, the poetics of Black vernacular language, and the formal geometries of postwar abstraction. In her first major body of work, made in the mid-1990s, Gallagher applied penmanship paper to canvas in uneven grids, filling the pages with small repeated pairs of stylized lips that she both drew and printed in blue ink. These works thus hinged the aesthetics of 1960s Minimalism to racist minstrelsy and blackface physiognomy. Other biomorphic forms (eyes, tongues, and hair) appear in abstract clusters throughout her oeuvre.

In 1998 Gallagher produced a small group of black monochromatic paintings as a direct response to the critical interpretations of her previous works. Starting again with squares of paper on canvas, she added more geometric shapes, creating a textured terrain that she built up with cut rubber. She further inscribed and collaged aleatory motifs from mid-century American race magazines and other sources, then painted the canvas in layers of black enamel. With this thick, reflective surface, Gallagher suggests that the psychosis of race relations is embedded in the history of Western abstraction.

Gallagher was awarded the American Academy of Arts and Letters Award in Art in 2000 and began her ongoing Watery Ecstatic (2001–) series the following year. In Watery Ecstatic, she invents complex biomorphic forms that she relates to the mythical Drexciya, an undersea kingdom populated by the women and children who were the tragic casualties of the transatlantic slave trade. Cutting into thick paper in her own version of scrimshaw—the practice of carving whale bones—Gallagher invests the afterlives of the Middle Passage with a sense of material control, her intense focus giving rise to new peripheries. Drexciya is featured again in Gallagher’s film installation Murmur (2003–04), made in collaboration with Dutch artist Edgar Cleijne. Combining celluloid film with computer animation, Gallagher and Cleijne developed an aesthetic that emerges from the intersection of archival sources, fiction, and memory.

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Ellen Gallagher

Photo: Philippe Vogelenzang

Fairs, Events & Announcements

Left: Michael Armitage. Photo: George Darrell © White Cube. Middle: Manthia Diawara. Right: Ellen Gallagher. Photo: Philippe Vogelenzang

In Conversation

Michael Armitage, Manthia Diawara, Ellen Gallagher
Moderated by Hans Ulrich Obrist

Friday, June 17, 2022, 5pm
Hall 1 Auditorium, Messeplatz, Basel
artbasel.com

Conceived and moderated by Hans Ulrich Obrist, the Art Basel Conversations: Artists’ Influencers series brings together artists with individuals who have had a significant effect on their practices. For this program, artists Michael Armitage and Ellen Gallagher and writer and filmmaker Manthia Diawara meet to consider the development of artistic kinships. The event is free to attend in person or online at facebook.com.

Left: Michael Armitage. Photo: George Darrell © White Cube. Middle: Manthia Diawara. Right: Ellen Gallagher. Photo: Philippe Vogelenzang

Edgar Cleijne and Ellen Gallagher, Osedax, 2010 (still) © Edgar Cleijne and Ellen Gallagher

Visit

Dhaka Art Summit

February 7–15, 2020
Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy, Dhaka
www.dhakaartsummit.org

William Forsythe and Ellen Gallagher are participating in Dhaka Art Summit 2020: Seismic Movements. Over nine days, five hundred artists, scholars, curators, and thinkers will join in panel discussions, performances, and symposia addressing the theme: “What is a movement and how do we ignite one beyond the confines of an art exhibition?” The event is free and open to the public. 

Edgar Cleijne and Ellen Gallagher, Osedax, 2010 (still) © Edgar Cleijne and Ellen Gallagher

Tom Wesselmann, Sunset Nude with Wesselmann Still Life, 2004 © The Estate of Tom Wesselmann/Licensed by ARS/VAGA, New York

Art Fair

Art Basel Miami Beach 2019

December 5–8, 2019, booth D7
Miami Beach Convention Center
www.artbasel.com

Gagosian is pleased to participate in Art Basel Miami Beach 2019 with modern and contemporary artworks by Richard Avedon, Georg Baselitz, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Joe Bradley, Cecily Brown, John Chamberlain, John Currin, Edmund de Waal, Rachel Feinstein, Urs Fischer, Helen Frankenthaler, Ellen Gallagher, Theaster Gates, Katharina Grosse, Mark Grotjahn, Jennifer Guidi, Simon Hantaï, Damien Hirst, Alex Israel and Bret Easton Ellis, Ellsworth Kelly, Jeff Koons, Roy Lichtenstein, Man Ray, Peter MarinoAdam McEwenJoan MitchellTakashi MurakamiAlbert OehlenSteven ParrinoPablo Picasso, Rudolf Polanszky, Richard PrinceSterling RubyEd RuschaRichard SerraRudolf StingelCy TwomblyAndy WarholMary WeatherfordTom WesselmannJonas WoodChristopher Wool, and Zao Wou-Ki, among others.

To receive a PDF with detailed information on the works, please contact the gallery at inquire@gagosian.com. To attend the fair, purchase tickets at www.artbasel.com.

Download the full press release (PDF)

Tom Wesselmann, Sunset Nude with Wesselmann Still Life, 2004 © The Estate of Tom Wesselmann/Licensed by ARS/VAGA, New York

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Museum Exhibitions

Ellen Gallagher, Ecstatic Draught of Fishes, 2022, installation view, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York © Ellen Gallagher

On View

Whitney Biennial 2022
Quiet as It’s Kept

Through September 5, 2022
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York
whitney.org

The Whitney Biennial was established in 1932 by the museum’s founder, Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, to chart developments in art in the United States. The 2022 Biennial features dynamic contributions that take different forms over the course of the exhibition: artworks—even walls—change, and performance animates the galleries and objects. With an intergenerational roster of sixty-three artists and collectives at all points in their careers, many of whom work with an interdisciplinary perspective, the Biennial surveys and presents the art and ideas of our time. Work by Harold Ancart, Ellen Gallagher, and Rick Lowe is included.

Ellen Gallagher, Ecstatic Draught of Fishes, 2022, installation view, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York © Ellen Gallagher

Installation view, Ellen Gallagher with Edgar Cleijne: A Law. . . A Blueprint. . . A Scale, Centro Botín, Santander, Spain, April 14–September 11, 2022. Artwork © Edgar Cleijne and Ellen Gallagher

On View

Ellen Gallagher with Edgar Cleijne
A Law. . . A Blueprint. . . A Scale

Through September 11, 2022
Centro Botín, Santander, Spain
www.centrobotin.org

Spanning two decades of Ellen Gallagher’s career, A Law. . . A Blueprint. . . A Scale includes paintings, works on paper, and three film installations created in collaboration with Edgar Cleijne. The exhibition invites visitors to submerge themselves under the ocean’s skin through an immersive itinerary that explores issues of race, identity, and transformation, with reference to themes such as Modernist abstraction and marine biology.

Installation view, Ellen Gallagher with Edgar Cleijne: A Law. . . A Blueprint. . . A Scale, Centro Botín, Santander, Spain, April 14–September 11, 2022. Artwork © Edgar Cleijne and Ellen Gallagher

Installation view, In the Black Fantastic, Hayward Gallery, London, June 29–September 18, 2022. Artwork © Ellen Gallagher

On View

Ellen Gallagher in
In the Black Fantastic

Through September 18, 2022
Hayward Gallery, London
www.southbankcentre.co.uk

In the Black Fantastic explores the work of eleven contemporary artists from the African diaspora who draw on science fiction, myth, and Afrofuturism to question our knowledge of the world. In this exhibition, which includes painting, photography, video, sculpture, and mixed-media installations, fantasy becomes a zone of creative and cultural liberation and a means of addressing racism and social injustice by conjuring new ways of being in the world. Work by Ellen Gallagher is included.

Installation view, In the Black Fantastic, Hayward Gallery, London, June 29–September 18, 2022. Artwork © Ellen Gallagher

Ellen Gallagher, Watery Ecstatic, 2019, installation view, TENT Rotterdam, Netherlands © Ellen Gallagher. Photo: Aad Hoogendoorn

Closed

Ellen Gallagher in
To Be Like Water

December 17, 2021–May 22, 2022
TENT Rotterdam, Netherlands
www.tentrotterdam.nl

To Be Like Water explores and expands on the meaning of code-switching—a term used in linguistics to denote the practice of alternating between multiple languages in conversation—which now also commonly refers to adjusting one’s behaviors to optimize the comfort of others. The exhibition aims to examine and complicate the notion of identity, and consider code-switching as a manifestation of a fluid multiplicity that operates within vectors of power. Work by Ellen Gallagher is included.

Ellen Gallagher, Watery Ecstatic, 2019, installation view, TENT Rotterdam, Netherlands © Ellen Gallagher. Photo: Aad Hoogendoorn

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Press

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