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An Experiment of Unusual Opportunity

Ellen Gallagher American

Not on view

Gallagher often uses imagery that connotes the churning depths of the ocean. Here, jagged lines and curling tentacles suggestive of foreboding sea creatures or flotsam and jetsam fade into the darkness of the swirling, textured background. The work takes as its subject the Tuskegee experiment, in which, starting in 1932, the United States Public Health Service followed six hundred Black men suffering from late-stage syphilis over the course of forty years. Although recruited with the promise of care, the subjects were never given a diagnosis, and the doctors conducting the study refused to give them treatment. The work’s title does not suggest recovery of these men’s stories or reveal what happened, but instead shows how the very notion of truth can float in and out of view.

An Experiment of Unusual Opportunity, Ellen Gallagher (American, born Providence, Rhode Island, 1965), Ink, graphite, oil, and varnish on papers, mounted on canvas

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