Ellen Gallagher

Gagosian Gallery (21)

Ellen Gallagher’s art has always involved insinuating content into modernist formats once cherished for emptying content out—for transcending the world’s mess. An apparently abstract line, for example, may in her hands break up into a row of tiny lips or eyes, their shapes close to racist caricature. Gallagher’s earlier work relied on the tension between the deliberately problematic comedy of these miniaturized and therefore surreptitious infiltrators and the overall elegance of her objects, often luxurious in scale and surface. A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down, as Julie Andrews taught, and Gallagher had it both ways, wrapping refined abstractions around the bitter pill of history.

Along with a beautiful group of works on paper and a set of short films, Gallagher here showed large-scale works, part of a series begun in 2001, that take a long step forward from the superficially

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