Neal Baer Collection

Darrel Ellis


c. 1991

Ink, wash and graphite on paper

11 1/2 x 8 1/4 inches (29.21 x 20.96 cm)

Image courtesy of Candice Madey, New York

Darrel Ellis (b. 1958, New York – d. 1992, New York) drew self-portraits based on photographs taken by himself as well as friends, lovers, and other artists such as Robert Mapplethorpe, Peter Hujar and Allen Frame. Self-portrait is one such work, the washed-out areas evidencing its flash photographic source. In other works, Ellis staged pictures of himself enacting various stereotypes of a Black man: security guard, beggar, Black Panther.

Ellis created an approach to portraiture that aligned him with a Pictures generation investigation of media appropriation but with his own family history and identity as a subject. Ellis developed a unique process whereby he cast projections of found photographs, such as those taken by his late father, onto the walls of his studio and then re-photographed them from different heights and angles and varying levels of exposure. The results images compose a deconstructed, and re-imaged family history, creating uncanny portraits marked by voids and distended proportions.

Ellis died of AIDS in 1992.

Candice Madey

“Darrel Ellis: A Composite Being,” Candice Madey, New York, April 17 – May 29, 2021

Other works by Darrel Ellis
Untitled (Laure and Mother in the Grass) (c. 1985-87)

See also
Peter Hujar, Darrel Ellis (III) (1981)

Darrel Ellis in the collection of the MoMA

Darrel Ellis in the collection of the Whitney Museum of American Art  

“Darrel Ellis,” Galerie Bernhard, Zurich, June 10 – July 15, 2022

David Levi Strauss, “Darrel Ellis,” Artforum, April 1997

Drew Sawyer, “Darrel Ellis,” OSMOS Issue 16, Fall 2018  

Shiv Kotecha, “How Darrel Ellis Reframed the Family,” Frieze, May 20, 2021