Darwin, Transformism, Mutation, Gallagher

Double Octopus Floating With Jellyfish, from Ellen Gallagher's Watery Ecstatic series, 2005. I saw these in the flesh at Liverpool Tate a while ago, an amalgam of paper cut, watercolour, ink, varnish and collage. All Gallagher's work deals in one way or another with African-American stereotyping, delivering the narrative through Darwinian transformism and mutation.

In this case, the ongoing series "relays the story of Drexciya, an underwater world populated by the descendants of pregnant West African women forced off slave ships on the Middle Passage, from West Africa to America, whose unborn children adapted to the water in utero and began a species of half-human, half-fish creatures" (from Circa).

This earlier work, part of the Deluxe series of 2004-5, is characteristic of a process she applied to many advertisements featuring black models. Wig, eyeball and other viral caricature-elements multiply, smothering the head, amplifying the stereotype.

Gallacher is discussed on Species of Origin, a useful site for this project, set up by Edinburgh College of Art and dealing with
contemporary art's relationship to Darwin.

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