Darrel Ellis

Visual AIDS
9.5 x 11 inches
Publication Date:
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Darrel Ellis

The first monograph on Darrel Ellis' expressive transformations of photographic memory.

Known for his experimental approach to painting and photography, New York–based mixed-media artist Darrel Ellis (1958–92) explored the psychic terrain between surface, memory and lyric self-representation. Working in part from his late father’s photographs, Ellis projected, deconstructed and reimaged his family history, creating uncanny portraits marked by voids and warps. His commitment to the self-portrait was no less inspired, particularly after his experiences of being photographed by Robert Mapplethorpe and Peter Hujar. Ellis was on the cusp of major recognition when his life was cut short by AIDS in 1992, at the age of 33.

This monograph provides the most comprehensive account of the artist to date, including 80 plates that chart his development from figurative painting to photographic experimentation and his later preoccupation with self-portraiture. A richly illustrated chronology, featuring never before seen excerpts from the artist’s journals, and an examination of Ellis’s unique photographic process provide new insights into Ellis’s life and artwork.

208 pp, hardcover, 11 x 9.5 inches
Text by Derek Conrad Murray, Steven G. Fullwood, Tiana Reid
Contributions by Sadie Barnette, Alanna Fields, S*an D. Henry-Smith, Paul Mpagi Sepuya, Ariel Goldberg
Edited by Lara Mimosa Montes and Kyle Croft
Designed by Polymode
Published by Visual AIDS, 2021
ISBN: 978-1-7326415-5-6 

Praise for Darrel Ellis

“Although rarely centered in critical accounts of the decade, Darrel Ellis’s imagistic practice of the 1980s was both precocious and prescient: he crosswired the painterly, the photographic, and the performative in working through the visual and affective registers of an African American familial matrix structured by irredeemable loss. As such, his art’s touching and tactical remediations enable a rethinking of postmodern appropriation as critical strategy and resonate deeply with today's Black figurative practices and the social exigencies that inform them. Darrel Ellis offers a vital entry point for reconsidering the artist’s oeuvre, which ended with his death from HIV/AIDS in 1992, but  continues to offer an indispensable model for Black queer ethical praxis in the visual field.”
Huey Copeland, Associate Professor, University of Pennsylvania

"This long overdue monograph provides revelatory insights into Darrel Ellis' archives and processes. Moving beyond biography, new essays place his interdisciplinary practices within a growing discourse on artists whose work complicates regimes of visibility and representation, particularly in the medium of photography. This book will be an indispensable resource on Ellis and his work, expanding our understanding of artists working in New York City during the 1980s."
Drew Sawyer, Curator of Photography, Brooklyn Museum 

"This book brilliantly explores the imaginings of Darrel Ellis as he tackled race and gender, Black love and Black style, loss and rebirth during the 1980s and 1990s. The images that Ellis's father made with his camera were fixed forever in the artist's mind. His artistic response to these moments shows the complexities of the period during which they were originally created and readers are sure to find new meaning of Black life through Ellis's long term engagement with these works. The artist's archives live through this book and redress crucial issues in the reworkings of photography, painting, and memoir."
Deborah Willis, Professor of Photography & Imaging, New York University