In her multifaceted practice, Ellen Gallagher has merged drawing and painting to create large-scale works that engage the viewer in a visual dialogue about exclusion, race, and stereotypes. Patient looking reveals hidden content and meaning in the minute blue shapes and repetitive linear motifs featured in Bubbel, which the artist named after a type of malware designed to create computer havoc. The work’s geometric and organic forms are actually disembodied lips and eyes that play on images of the inherently derogatory use of blackface by non-black performers in vaudeville minstrel shows. Here, Gallagher pushes back against this historical precedent. The seemingly generative lips break the barrier of the bubble, suggesting that a voice may overcome such obstacles to be heard. Gallagher’s approach to difficult subjects is intentionally subtle, leaving a great deal of room for interpretation.
Label from Drawing: The Beginning of Everything, July 8–October 15, 2017