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Ly

Photo Credit: Rich Sanders, Des Moines

Ly

Artist: Ellen Gallagher (American, born 1965)
Date: 2000
Medium: Oil, ink, plasticine, and paper on linen
Dimensions:
Canvas (/image): 72 × 84 in. (182.9 × 213.4 cm.)
Credit Line: Purchased with funds from the Coffin Fine Arts Trust; Nathan Emory Coffin Collection of the Des Moines Art Center, 2001.2
Accession number: 2001.2
Classification: painting
Label Text Repeated forms swarm together in the center of this painting. They are small versions of stereotypical features (lips and eyes) of minstrel performers. Minstrel shows were a popular entertainment in the 1840s to the early 1900s that portrayed ethnic groups, especially Black people, in racist ways. In these shows, performers blackened their faces with burnt cork and exaggerated their lips and eyes with red and white paints. Gallagher is interested in the historic and social weight of this imagery, but is also drawn to them as abstract forms. Another inspiration is jazz, which is reflected in the visual rhythm created by repeating shapes. Gallagher takes this mix of abstracted, rhythmic forms and turns them into a literal expression of her own nickname. “E l l” appears in a somewhat childlike scrawl, with lines that reference the rough-lined paper and writing of school children. The title of the work, ly, can then be placed with the painted letters to form “Elly.” July 22, 2020
Published References"Fabulism", Joselyn Art Museum, 2004
entirely unexpected