ATHENS, GA.- The Georgia Museum of Art
at the University of Georgia presents the exhibition Michael Ellison: Urban Impressions from February 18 through May 21, 2017. Organized by Shawnya Harris, Larry D. and Brenda A. Thompson Curator of African American and African Diasporic Art, it features block prints and collage works on paper by the Atlanta-based printmaker. This exhibition is part of the museums commitment to presenting single-artist shows by under-recognized African American artists.
Ellison was born in New York City but grew up in Collier Heights, a middle-class African American neighborhood in southwest Atlanta. He studied art at Atlanta College of Art on the GI Bill, where he learned printmaking. The title of the exhibition comes from the way in which one of Ellisons early printmaking instructors, Norman Wagner, described Ellisons subject matter, referring to his prints as urban landscapes and/or impressions.
Ellison continued his education at Georgia State University, graduating with a masters degree in visual arts. In 1985, he moved to teach at South Carolina State College (now South Carolina State University) and later started an artist-in-residence program and taught at Clafin College. His passion for printmaking flourished, and he developed a style that layered ink thickly enough to create texture as well as bright colors.
Harris says, Michael Ellison's work represents an important piece to the discussion of not only only African American printmakers, but also the history of Georgia-based printmakers, their unique narratives and their contributions to the medium.
In 1991 an electrical fire badly disfigured the artist. As he began to recover and re-learn how to make prints, he created works with striking colors focusing on scenes of isolation and community in urban landscapes. The Coca-Cola Corporation, the Federal Reserve, Georgia Pacific, and the High Museum of Art all collected Ellisons work. He enjoyed success through the end of the decade, creating a mural in the Five Points district of Atlanta and producing solo exhibitions at the Hammonds House Galleries and Georgia Institute of Technology. Ellison passed away from heart complications at the age of 48 in 2001.