DeLuxe consists of sixty prints involving a riot of materials, including velvet, toy ice cubes, and googly eyeballs, and techniques ranging from old-fashioned photogravure to recent developments in digital technology. Each print began with a magazine page selected from the artist’s collection of titles geared toward African American audiences, such as Sepia, Our World, and Ebony, dating from the 1930s to the ’70s. While some of the prints are drawn from celebrity features or news stories, the majority are based on advertisements. Many of these suggest means for personal improvement and play on readers’ desire for transformation via products such as wigs, hair pomades, acne treatments, and skin-bleaching creams. To create these works, Gallagher drew and redrew, masked out and added text, cut and pasted images, and collaged on three-dimensional elements. The resulting images are intensely personalized, transformed in both form and content.
In a deft commentary on race, racism, and cultural identity, DeLuxe addresses the complex role hair plays in African and African American culture: it is a means of ornament, adornment, and personal expression; a signifier of cultural identity and difference; and a talisman for both strength and protection.
Publication excerpt from MoMA Highlights: 375 Works from The Museum of Modern Art, New York (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2019)
Gallagher collected these images sifting through photo journals and magazines marketed to black audiences, such as Our World, Sepia, and Ebony. She reflected, “As I began looking through them, the wig ads themselves had such a language to them … this sort of lost past.” Each of the sixty prints here began with a page from one of these publications. Using advertisements for hair and skin products, Gallagher drew and redrew, masked out and added text, and collaged three-dimensional elements, such as a modeling clay called Plasticine. She remarked, “The Plasticine is meant to allude to that idea of mutability and shifting, because Plasticine is used in animations.”
Gallery label from 2019