Currents 88. Gallagher is this year's Freund Fellow, and the exhibition will feature a major new painting made by the artist during her fellowship in St.Louis. Pomp-Bang, 2003, is a monumental canvas supporting a grid of 396 paper sheets. To make the painting, Gallagher scanned images from the pages of One World, Ebony, and Black Stars and collaged them onto the surface of her canvas.
SAINT LOUIS ART MUSEUM PREMIERS NEW WORK BY ELLEN GALLAGHER
The Saint Louis Art Museum is pleased to present new work by Ellen Gallagher as part of its Currents series on contemporary art. Gallagher is this year's Freund Fellow, and the exhibition will feature a major new painting made by the artist during her fellowship in St. Louis. POMP-BANG, 2003, is a monumental canvas supporting a grid of 396 paper sheets. To make the painting, Gallagher scanned images from the pages of One World, Ebony, and Black Stars (all publications targeted to black audiences) and collaged them onto the surface of her canvas. She focused on advertising imagery that appeared in these magazines from the late 1930s into the early 1970s, a period during which texts by distinguished black authors were juxtaposed with a curious variety of advertised products: astringents, laxatives, corn removers, religious advice, and rates at the dubious Peg-Leg Motel. While feature articles such as 'System: Internal colonialism structures black, white relations in America,' sought to deconstruct and historicize the role of race in American society, much of the advertising offered thinly veiled tips for making black women look less black through the use of skin lighteners, curl relaxers, and above all, wigs.
The format of this painting yields multiple associations with periodic tables, typologogies, and urban plans, but the most cogent is the cartographic grid. POMP-BANG can read as a map's legend to an arcane site excavated by Gallagher's archival work and subsequent baroque adornment. Some of the icons to be found there - a wig in the form of an octopus, the quixotic Peg-Leg Bates, fish bait - also figure in a luxurious suite of drawings. Watery Ecstatic, a series of white-on-white collages begun in 2001, is as loose and flowing as POMP-BANG and its pendants are tightly demarcated. While dissimilar in terms of scale, medium, and technique, the monumental painting and the works on paper share leitmotifs of the fragmented body and aquatic imagery. In this exhibition, Gallagher's vocabulary of signs is recombined and reworked, its incarnations varying in tone depending upon context: now menacing, now playful, and always ravishingly rendered.
Image: Ellen Gallagher, American, Untitled, 1997; color lithograph; 53 1/2 x 40 1/4 inches; Museum Minority Artists Purchase Fund 7:1999
Currents 88: Ellen Gallagher
March 18 - May 11, 2003
On view in Gallery 337 and Sculpture Hall
Public lecture and exhibition tour by the artist at the Museum on March 18 at 6:30 pm
Saint Louis Art Museum
1 Fine Arts Drive
Saint Louis, MO 63110