Ellen Gallagher

Paper Cup

About this artwork

'Paper Cup' is part of Gallagher’s first mature body of work which explored layered and contradictory themes. Gallagher has created a loosely structured grid by lining up small pieces of writing paper in multiple rows, recalling the history of handwriting exercises. Closer inspection reveals each line to be carefully constructed from rows of bulbous shapes resembling the vowels a child must repeat when learning to write, though they are in fact a reference to the stereotypical lips of American blackface minstrels. From a distance this large work’s subtle geometry resembles an American minimalist painting, but closer inspection reveals not only a darker side of American history but references Gallagher’s own mixed-race origins.

Updated before 2020

  • artist:
  • title:
    Paper Cup
  • date created:
    1996
  • materials:
    Ink on paper on canvas
  • measurements:
    213.50 x 183.00 x 4.10 cm
  • object type:
  • credit line:
    ARTIST ROOMS National Galleries of Scotland and Tate. Acquired jointly through The d'Offay Donation with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Art Fund 2008
  • accession number:
    AR00066
  • gallery:
  • subject:
  • photographer:
    Antonia Reeve
This artwork is part of Artist Rooms
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Ellen Gallagher

Ellen Gallagher