Showing at Hannah Hoffman Gallery is a presentation of Darrel Ellis’s work. Ellis was born in 1958, in the Bronx, New York. Ellis’s life was cut short by AIDS in 1992 at age 33. Shortly after Ellis’s death, a series of his photographs was featured in New Photography 8 at the Museum of Modern Art, New York; and in 1996, Allen Frame organized a large-scale retrospective at Art in General, New York that traveled to numerous institutions nationally. Ellis’s work is in the collections of the Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore; Bronx Museum of the Arts, New York; Brooklyn Museum, New York; Harvard Art Museum, Boston; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Princeton University Art Museum, Princeton; and Whitney Museum of American Art, New York amongst others.
Ellis’s career was brief, cut short by his death at 33 years old from AIDS-related complications. Over the course of the 1980s, he worked to make sense of burdens both personal and societal, while also finding new possibilities for time-tested media: washes, ink, and graphite on paper, gelatin silver prints that he adopted and remade physically and conceptually. He began to draw as a child but started making art in earnest after receiving a box of negatives that had belonged to his deceased father, a photographer who was killed by a pair of plainclothes policemen a month before Ellis was born.
Ellis described his father’s photography as an optimistic portrait of Harlem and the South Bronx in the post-WWII era. The tone of these images changed, however, as they were reconfigured and made anew over the course of the 1980s. At first, Ellis’s remaking process involved translating photographic records into inky paint.
In the last years of his life, Ellis found new ways to disrupt the analogue of reality captured by his father’s camera and in photographs Ellis made himself. A breakthrough came in the late 1970s, when he began to use an enlarger to project photographic negatives onto sculpted, three-dimensional surfaces. Curious about the visual distortions and shadows that emerged from this process, Ellis rephotographed the project-ed negatives and created new prints, revealing disruptions to the original image that opened new relation-ships and upended the past meaning assigned to so much documentary photography.
The show runs until March 18.