“Ellen Gallagher: Accidental Records”
According to the International Organization for Migration, nearly 3,000 people perished in 2017 trying to cross the Mediterranean from Africa to Europe. In far different circumstances, at least two million African captives died during the Middle Passage, between the 15th and 19th centuries, some of them thrown living into the Atlantic. The terrific new paintings at the center of Ellen Gallagher’s first solo exhibition in Los Angeles continue her exploration of the history of that earlier tragedy and of the ocean as both graveyard and birthplace. In them, fragmented brown faces drift against sea-green backgrounds, conjuring the Afrofuturist myth—invented by the electronic music duo Drexciya—of an underwater realm inhabited by the unborn progeny of drowned pregnant African women.