Room 2

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The Yellow paintings – including Double Natural 2002, Pomp-Bang 2003 and Afrylic 2004 – began as a collection of found images taken from black lifestyle magazines such as Ebony, Our World and Black Stars. Ranging from the 1940s to the mid-1970s, these include advertisements mostly for wigs but also skin creams, soaps and shampoos. Such images reflect a specific moment in social history. ‘The wigs admit an anxiety about identity and loss; they map integration, the civil rights movement right through to Vietnam and women’s rights’, Gallagher has said. ‘And they chart an emerging Afro-urban aesthetic where the Afro becomes this important way of taking up space in the city’.

Gallagher scanned all of the images, printed them onto archival newsprint paper and arranged them into a vast grid. She then began to add plasticine. These improvised additions provide a kind of commentary, drawing attention to certain details, making puns and jokes, but also prising the images out of their historical moment. As Gallagher has said, ‘The wig ladies are fugitives, conscripts from another time and place, liberated from the ‘race’ magazines of the past. But again I have transformed them, here on the pages that once held them captive…’

Gallagher has also described the array of characters as a ‘procession’, suggesting parallels between their transformation and historical costumed pageants such as W.E.B. Dubois’s Star of Ethiopia 1913, in which hundreds of participants enacted the glories of a series of African civilizations from ancient Egypt and Sudan up to the tragedy of slavery.