Ellen Gallagher

ELLEN GALLAGHER, Odalisque, 2005, gelatin silver print with watercolor and gold leaf, 15 1/4 × 14 1/4 inches framed  (38.7 × 36.2 cm), ed. of 15

Ellen Gallagher Listed Exhibitions (52 Kb)
Ellen Gallagher Bibliography (Selected) (46 Kb)

Ellen Gallagher was born in 1965 in Providence, Rhode Island and studied at Oberlin College, Ohio (1982–84); Studio 70, Fort Thomas, Kentucky (1989); School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Massachusetts (1992); and Skowhegan School of Art, Maine (1993). From the outset of her career, Gallagher has brought together non-representational formal concerns and charged figuration in paintings, drawings, collages, and films that reveal themselves slowly, first as intricate abstractions, then later as unnerving stories. The tension sustained between minimalist abstraction and image-based narratives deriving from her use of found materials gives rise to a dynamic that posits the historical constructions of the “New Negro”—a central development of the Harlem Renaissance—with concurrent developments in modernist abstraction. In doing so, she points to the artificiality of the perceived schism between figuration and abstraction in art.

Selecting from a wealth of popular ephemera—lined penmanship paper, magazine pages, journals, and advertising—as support for her paintings and drawings, Gallagher subjects the original elements and motifs to intense and laborious processes of transformation including accumulation, erasure, interruption and interference. Like forensic evidence, only traces of their original state remain, veiled by inky saturation, smudges, staining, perforations, punctures, spills, abrasions, printed lettering and marking, all potent evocations and emanations of time and its materiality. This attained state of “un-knowing” fascinates Gallagher and is one of the primary themes in her work.

In 2000 Gallagher was awarded the American Academy Award in Art, and participated in the Biennale di Venezia 2003 and 2015. Her work is represented in public collections including Tate Modern, London; Centre Pompidou, Paris; Moderna Museet, Stockholm; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. Solo exhibitions include “Watery Ecstatic,” Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston (2001; traveled to the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney through 2002); “Preserve,” Des Moines Art Center, De Moines (2001; traveled to Yerba Buena Arts Center, San Francisco; and The Drawing Center, New York through 2002); “POMP-BANG,” St. Louis Art Museum, Missouri (2003); “Ichthyosaurus,” Freud Museum, London (2005); “DeLuxe,” Whitney Museum of American Art, New York and Museum of Contemporary Art, Miami (2005); “Ellen Gallagher: Coral Cities,” Tate Liverpool, England (2007; traveled to Dublin City Gallery, Dublin); “An Experiment of Unusual Opportunity,” South London Gallery; London (2009); “Ice or Salt,” SCAD Museum of Art, Savannah, (2013); “Ellen Gallagher: Don’t Axe Me,” New Museum, New York (2013); “Ellen Gallagher: AxME,” Tate Modern, London, (2013; traveled to Sara Hildén Art Museum, Tampere; and Haus der Kunst, Munich through 2014).

Gallagher currently lives and works in Rotterdam, The Netherlands and New York City.