Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Ellen Gallagher - Coral Cities

I was very surprised to have a friend point out that Drexciya were the subject of a show entitled 'Coral Cities' ongoing at Dublin's Hugh Lane gallery. I did some research and found that the artist responsible, Ellen Gallagher, has been working on this series, 'Watery Ecstatic', for a number of years and that it has already been exhibited at Tate Liverpool. This is a very welcome and significant development which has no doubt already introduced a whole new audience to Drexciya and their idea‘s. I found the following texts which had this to say about her and her show...
‘Ellen Gallagher was born in Providence, Rhode Island, in 1965, and lives and works in New York and Rotterdam, Holland. Her work first gained international attention at the Whitney Biennial in 1995. She has exhibited widely with recent solo exhibitions at the Freud Museum, London (2005), MoCA Museum of Contemporary Art, Miami (2005), the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2005) and was selected for the Italian Pavilion for the 50th Venice Biennale in 2003.’

‘Gallagher is best known for her paintings that rework advertisements for hair and skin products from popular magazines such as “Ebony”, “Our World” and “Sepia”, but also creates drawings, sculptures and films that explore issues of race, slavery and identity.’

‘Her current exhibition at the Liverpool Tate indeed showcases her recent works, and charts her ongoing exploration of the Drexciya Mythos and the Black Atlantis. The idea stems from the suggestion that amphibian descendents of African women and children inhabit the seas between Africa and the Americas, after many jumped overboard and plummeted to their deaths during the gruelling journey of the middle passage, rather than be sold as slaves in America. Gallagher’s interpretation of the amphibious creatures becomes the narrative of her work for this exhibition, and she presents the haunting images by many different means. This disconcerting tale has very much influenced her recent works, making them as haunting as they are beautiful.’
‘The focal point of the exhibition, ‘Bird in Hand’ sees the most ambitious artistry of the Watery Ecstatic series, execute through careful use of oil, ink, cut paper, polymer medium, salt and gold leaf on canvas. The results are exceptional on an aesthetic level, and succeed in adding depth and meaning to the narrative and premise behind its creation. Gallagher effectively evokes the sea, and reveals the isolation and desperation of African slaves through a carefully crafted absence of companionship.’

‘Coral Cities features new and recent works and focuses on her ongoing series collectively entitled Watery Ecstatic, which explores the myth of Drexciya, a myth propagated by an underground Detroit techno outfit of the same name in the 1990s. An Atlantis-like underwater world, Drexciya is populated by a marine species descended from women and children who jumped overboard or were thrown from slave ships during the gruelling journey from West Africa to America. In this series of work their embryonic status is transformed into elaborate mythical figures, half human, half fish, and highly developed underwater species. Carving directly onto paper, elaborating with precise detail, and culling images from the 1930s through to the 1970s from publications such as Ebony and Sepia, Gallagher remixes representations of identity. The exhibition includes the epic painting Bird in Hand, representing a black sailor or pirate from Cape Verde, part tree, part root, whose head spawns a multitude of heads and text. As in other works historically specific cultural references are merged with Gallagher’s own personal biography as a black Irish-American woman. Gallagher revises and revisions the historic and fantastical to create a body of work that layers imageries and creates new cultural mythologies.’

These links have more about her work.
http://www.hughlane.ie/exhibitions/exhibc.asp
http://www.catalystmedia.org.uk/issues/misc/reviews/ellen_gallagher.php

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