Ellen Gallagher is one of the most acclaimed contemporary artists to have emerged from North America since the mid-1990s. She brings together imagery from myth, nature, art and social history to create complex works in a wide variety of media, including painting, drawing, relief, collage, print, sculpture, film and animation. From 1 May to 1 September 2013 Tate Modern
presents the UKs first major solo exhibition of her work, providing a unique opportunity to explore her twenty-year career.
Gallagher came to international prominence by subversively combining a minimalist aesthetic of intricate repetition with an iconography drawn in part from caricatured lips and eyes of black vaudeville minstrels. She continued to explore this tension between abstraction and figuration, transforming imagery from an eclectic range of literature, music, science fiction, advertising and natural history. Through a painstaking process of obscuring and layering these images, only traces of them are left visible through a veil of inky smudges, punctures, stains and abrasions to suggest a strange and unsettling imaginary world.
This survey exhibition takes an overview of Gallaghers practice, exploring the themes which have emerged and recurred from her seminal early canvases, to her wigmap grid collages, through to recent film installations and new bodies of work. The exhibition will include such key works as Bird in Hand 2006, a complex relief built up in layers of printed matter, plasticine, crystal, paint and gold leaf. In Bird in Hand, human life and marine life converge at the bottom of the ocean in a mythical black Atlantis.
Gallaghers mysterious vision of marine life extends beyond the canvas and into other media, such as the 16mm film installation Murmur 2003-4, created in collaboration with Edgar Cleijne, as well as the ongoing series of delicate watercolours and cut paper works entitled Watery Ecstatic. The large-scale sculptural installation Jungle Gym/Preserve 2001 will also be on display, which appears to be an abstract matrix of white poles, but on closer inspection becomes an intricate network of symbols referencing the traditions of whale-bone carving. New and recent work on display for the first time at Tate Modern, including Morphia, a series of two-sided drawings, will also show how Gallagher combines the intimate with the epic, the urban with the oceanic, the ethereal with the physical and history with the present.
Ellen Gallagher was born in Providence, Rhode Island in 1965 and now lives and works in Rotterdam and New York. Solo exhibitions of her work have included those held at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York andNew Museum,New York. She was awarded the Joan Mitchell Fellowship in 1997 and an American Academy Award in Art in 2000 and her work is held in many major public collections, including MoMA, New York; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Museum of Fine Arts,Boston; and Centre Pompidou, Paris.
Ellen Gallagher: AxME is curated by Juliet Bingham, Curator of International Art, Tate Modern, with Loren Hansi Momodu, Assistant Curator, Tate Modern. The exhibition will be accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue by Tate Publishing designed by Irma Boom and will tour to the Sara Hildén Art Museum, Tampere, Finland in autumn 2013 and Haus der Kunst, Munich, Germany in spring 2014.