In a cosmos of tiny details and everyday references Ellen Gallagher’s work is most impressive in her choice of material. Her exhibition includes large format works of collage and small, delicate drawings on paper. The drawings are mounted in glass boxes allowing the viewer to see the paper on both sides, slightly transparent with carved and cut out patterns. Gallagher’s collages looks like abstract patterns, often uniform in color, but constructed of small figurative elements. The figures always are simplified and stylized; they only suggest fragments of a person, as an eye or a hairdo. In a couple of her collage works the small dark paper pieces in blues and greens cover the surface completely. They look like unearthly, compact landscapes in motion. In the piece Greasy the collage pieces further appear on a white background, but the space has the same kind of movement, like an explosion coming from the figure in the left corner.
Gallagher has worked with the grid and with pop culture references prior in her work, however less evident here. Most present is the typed word, the letter cut out and sometimes even painted over, but still recognizable from magazine and newspaper print. Her work is elaborate and labor intense, which can almost look too constructed, nothing more than a beautiful surface. Where is that element that pulls us in, make us relate to the work? I believe it is within the choice of collage material, printed images and text we recognize from our daily life.