The exhibition

Ellen Gallagher and Edgar Cleijne

From June 13, 2020 to October 4, 2020

Centro Botín presents the first exhibition in Spain of Ellen Gallagher and Edgar Cleijne. This show surveys two decades of works and includes paintings and works on paper by Gallagher, as well as three film installations Cleijne and Gallagher produced in the course of the past few years.

Ellen Gallagher and Edgar Cleijne have been collaborating since 2004, while also continuing to produce individual works.

The selection of Gallagher’s paintings and works on paper will focus on three of her series: Black Paintings, a sequence of monochrome works from 1998 through which the artist sets out to convey how the psychotic state of race and ethnic relations is profoundly rooted in the history of Western abstraction; Watery Ecstatic, a series of works on paper begun in 2001 and still in progress, in which the artist conjures up complex biomorphic forms that relate to Drexciya, a mythical underwater realm inhabited by pregnant African women and their unborn children who were thrown overboard from slave ships crossing the Atlantic; and Sea Bed, a recent series of paintings which addresses themes related to the slave trade and the memory which persists in the ocean of that forced migration.

Works by Edgar Cleijne and Ellen Gallagher on view include their most recent collaboration - Highway Gothic - an immersive meditation on the ecological and cultural implications of the Interstate 10 highway that cuts through the Mississippi Delta and New Orleans, composed of 16mm film projections and cyanotype images printed on fabric and 70mm film stock.

Also on view is Better Dimension, an ad hoc viewing room, the external wooden panels of which bear texts and graphics based in part on broadsheets and pamphlets of the American illusionist Black Herman and the jazz musician Sun Ra. Inside, the combination of projected hand-painted slides and a spinning bust of John F. Kennedy’s head reflects upon the notion of space, whether understood as a place to conquer or a psychedelic realm of delight.

Placed outside of the exhibition on the wharf—thus directly connecting the work to the sea—is Osedax, another self-contained media installation with inscribed panels housing a visual narrative based on ‘whale fall’—the scientific term for dead whales that have fallen to the ocean floor and are consumed by scavengers—the title of the work being the name given to bone-eating worms.

The exhibition is accompanied by a publication with an essay by the British writer Philip Hoare, known for such books as Leviathan, or The Whale (2008); The Sea Inside (2013) and RisingTideFallingStar (2017).

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