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Ellen Gallagher

Artist 145 Ellen Gallagher Racial Identity in American culture Mixed media

Ellen Gallagher (born 1965) is an American artist. Her media include painting, works on paper, film and video. She deals with issues of race, and may combine formality with racial stereotypes and depict "ordering principles" society imposes.

Gallagher was born to a biracial ethnicity. Her father's heritage was from Cape Verde in the Western Cape, and her mother's background was Caucasian Irish Catholic. Gallagher's mother was a working-class Irish-American and her father was a professional boxer. She identifies as African American.

Gallagher is an abstract painter and multimedia artist creating minimalist work with subject narratives. She was inspired by the New Negro movement as well as modernist abstraction.

Some of Gallagher's work involves repetitively modifying advertising found in African American focused publications such as Ebony, Sepia, and Our World.

Her most famous pieces are her grid-like collages of magazines grouped together into larger pieces. Each of these works contains as many as or more than 60 prints employing techniques of photogravure, spit-bite, collage, cutting, scratching, silkscreen, offset lithography and hand-building. Gallagher also glues notebook paper drawings onto her canvas to create textured surfaces.

"Sambo lips" and "bug eyes," references to the Black minstrel shows, are often scattered throughout Gallagher's works. Additionally, Gallagher would use these symbols in her collage pieces, inspired by lined yellow paper schoolchildren use.

Some of her pieces may explicitly reference the issue of race while also having a more subtle undercurrent related to race.

Gallagher has by synthesizing a wide range of artistic mediums and traditions, and working across national borders created a counter to static representations of Black Being. Her work allows both abstraction and figuration to become portals to a world in which race as a subject becomes a different form.


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