Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Delirious Hem

Ellen Gallagher (American, born Providence, Rhode Island 1965)
Graphite and colored pencil on papers, mounted on canvas
84 x 72 1/4in. (213.4 x 183.5cm)
Credit Line:
Gift of Norman Dubrow, 2010
Accession Number:
Not on view
Ellen Gallagher's debut on the New York art scene in 1995 at the Whitney Biennial and subsequent one-person show at Mary Boone Gallery in 1996 (where Delirious Hem was shown) brought her instant critical attention. Her large "paintings" - actually crafted from multiple sheets of drawn paper pasted in rows to a caveat support - combine the post-modernist interest in race, gender, and identity with the grid aesthetic of Minimalism. Neither wholly pictorial nor abstract, her works can be read on many different levels, and they suggest visual sources as diverse as patchwork quilts, African textiles, and Agnes Martin paintings. Small line drawings of thick lips (an allusion to the negative stereotyping of African Americans in blackface minstrel shows) are embedded throughout this composition. Clustered in small groupings that resemble beaded bracelets and barely visible under the sheets of blue-lined penmanship paper that form the rectangles in the center, these racial signifiers are a disturbing undertow in an otherwise seemingly lyrical image.
Inscription: Signed and dated (on backboard): Ellen Gallagher 1995
the artist, Brooklyn (1995–96); [Mary Boone Gallery, New York, 1996; sold in 1996 to Dubrow]; Norman Dubrow, New York (1996–2010; his gift to MMA)

New York. Mary Boone Gallery. "Ellen Gallagher," January 6–February 24, 1996, no catalogue.

London. Tate Modern. "Ellen Gallagher: AxME," May 1–September 1, 2013, no. 27.

Tampere. Sara Hildén Art Museum. "Ellen Gallagher: AxME," September 27, 2013–January 26, 2014, no. 27.

Haus der Kunst, Munich. "Ellen Gallagher: AxME," February 27–June 1, 2014, no. 27.

David Bourdon. "New York: Ellen Gallagher at Mary Boone." Art in America (April 1996), ill. p. 111.

Celia McGee. "An Artist Who Doesn't Fit in Gets the Perfect Offer: A Solo." New York Times (January 7, 1996), p. H35, ill.

Michael Kimmelman. "Art in Review: Ellen Gallagher." New York Times (January 12, 1996), p. C31.

Grace Glueck. "Noteworthy Solo Deboone." New York Observer (February 12, 1996).

Okwui Enwezor. "Ellen Gallagher: Mary Boone Gallery." Frieze Magazine (May 9, 1996), p. 74.

Okwui Enwezor. "Ellen Gallagher with Peter Haley." Index Magazine (July-August 1997), ill. p. 12.

Lowery S. Sims. "The African-American Artist and Abstraction." Norman Lewis: Black Paintings 1946–1977. New York, 1998, p. 48, fig. 31.

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