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Ellen Gallagher in "Play"

Working with vintage magazines, Ellen Gallagher explores both the representation of ethnicity and the essential nature of identity. In a series of large paintings, she mounts page after page in a grid so that the viewer relates to the magazines in a spatial rather than a sequential way.

“I’m collecting advertisements and stories and characters,” she says. “And I see them as conscripts in the sense that they come into my lexicon without me asking them permission.” Using an intricate printmaking process to engrave an image of Isaac Hayes, Gallagher comments “I think there is a nostalgia in my gathering of this material…yet in that gesture you’re continually moving forward and continually seeing the world.”

More information and credits


Created by: Susan Sollins & Susan Dowling. Executive Producer & Curator: Susan Sollins. Series Producer: Eve-Laure Moros Ortega. Associate Producer: Migs Wright. Assistant Curator: Wesley Miller. Production Manager: Alice Bertoni. Production Coordinator: Kelly Shindler. Producer: Charles Atlas. Editor: Lizzie Donahue. Host: Grant Hill. Director of Photography: Jim Barham, Terry Doe, Mead Hunt, Tom Hurwitz, Eddie Marritz, & Joel Shapiro. Sound: Leigh Crisp, Les Honess, Mark Mandler, Roger Phenix, Gary Silver, Merce Williams, & Richard Yeats. Assistant Camera: Craig Feldman, Andrew Heikkila, Brian Hwang, Steve Nealey, Kipjaz Savoie, & Trent Wittenbach. Production Assistant: Justin Leitstein. Assistant Avid Editors: Robert Achs, Jamie Courville, Sean Frechette, Mike Heffron, David Kreger, Cara Leroy O’Connell, Joaquin Perez, Aaron Sheddrick, &
Lynn True. Still Photography: Alice Bertoni.

Creative Consultant: Ed Sherin. Art Design & Animation: Open, New York. On-Line Editor: Don Wyllie & Frame:Runner NYC. Composer: Peter Foley. Voice-Over Artist: Jace Alexander. Sound Editing: Margaret Crimmins, Greg Smith, & Dog Bark Sound. Sound Mix: Tony Volante & Sound Lounge. Animation Stand: Frank Ferrigno & Frame:Runner NYC. Introductory Host Segments Created by: INTERspectacular. Commissioned Video Art by: Teresa Hubbard / Alexander Birchler.

Artworks Courtesy of: Ellen Gallagher; Arturo Hererra; Oliver Herring; Jessica Stockholder; Blaffer Gallery, Houston; Edgar Cleijne; Gagosian Gallery, New York; Gorney Bravin + Lee, New York; Max Protetch, New York; Mitchell-Innes & Nash, New York; Brent Sikkema, New York; & Two Palms Press, New York.

Special Thanks: The Art21 Board of Trustees; Maria Baptista; Jeff Bechtel; Josie Browne; Centro Galego de Arte Contemporánea, Spain; Cherie Greer; Curious Pictures; Kim Davenport; Dieu Donné Papermill; Julie Gannon; Jay Gorney; Leta Grzan; Andrea Hall; Michael Jenkins; David Lasry; Sheri Pasquarella; Rice University Art Gallery; Natasha Roje; Soundtrack F/T; Terrie Sultan; Ttweak; University of Central Florida; Dona Warner; & The Yale Center for Media Initiatives.

Director of Education & Outreach: Jessica Hamlin. Director of Development: Kathi Pavlick. Development Associate: Sara Simonson.

Interns: Susan Agliata, Nathan Townes-Anderson, Hannah Blumenthal, Agnes Bolt, Lisa Charde, Mary Chou, Kate Crawford, Amanda Donnan, Sophie Dunoyer de Segonzac, Suzy Foster, Jules Gaffney, Katie Hen, Heather Hughes, Adam Krakowski, Georgia Kung, David Mark Kupperberg, Maiko Kyogoku, Phil Logan, Lisa Margulies, Michelle Maydanchik, Carla Meyers, Christine Miller, Geoffrey Pan, Sujay Pandit, Jihan Robinson, Jennifer Sarkilahti, Megan Scally, Karen Seapker, Greg Shilling, Sarah Sliwa, Jennifer Smith, & Elizabeth Swift.

Public Relations: Kelly & Salerno Communications. Station Relations: De Shields Associates, Inc. Legal Counsel: Albert Gottesman. Bookkeeper: Marea Alverio-Chaveco & William Handy.

Major underwriting for Season 3 of Art in the Twenty-First Century is provided by National Endowment for the Arts, PBS, Agnes Gund and Daniel Shapiro, Nathan Cummings Foundation, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Jon and Mary Shirley Foundation, Bagley Wright Fund Bloomberg, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation, JPMorgan Chase, Melva Bucksbaum and Raymond Learsy, The Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, and The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts.

Closed captionsAvailable in English, German, Romanian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Italian

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Interested in showing this film in an exhibition or public screening? To license this video please visit Licensing & Reproduction.

Ellen Gallagher

Repetition and revision are central to Ellen Gallagher’s  treatment of advertisements that she appropriates from popular magazines like Ebony and Our World. Initially drawn to wig advertisements because of their grid-like structure, she later realized that it was the accompanying language that attracted her. Gallagher began to bring these “narratives” into her paintings—making them function through the characters of the advertisements, as a kind of chart of lost worlds. Although the work has often been interpreted strictly as an examination of race, Gallagher also suggests a more formal reading with respect to materials, processes, and insistences. From afar, the work appears abstract and minimal; upon closer inspection, googly eyes, reconfigured wigs, tongues, and lips of minstrel caricatures multiply in detail.

“I think it’s sometimes hard for people who don’t make things to understand labor and joy and attention and whimsy.”

Ellen Gallagher

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Ellen Gallagher

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Ellen Gallagher

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Characters, Myths, and Stories

Artist Ellen Gallagher discusses the characters she employs in her work, such as Pegleg and Eunice Rivers. She also talks about how she moved from painting and collage to film.

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