The Georgia Museum of Art at UGA is showing the exhibition Michael Ellison: Urban Impressions through May 21.
Organized by Shawnya Harris, the Larry D. and Brenda A. Thompson Curator of African American and African Diasporic Art, the exhibition features block prints and collage works on paper by the Atlanta-based printmaker. This exhibition is part of the museum’s commitment to presenting single-artist shows by under-recognized African-American artists.
Ellison was born in New York City but grew up in Collier Heights, a middle-class African-American neighborhood in southwest Atlanta. He studied art on the GI Bill at the Atlanta College of Art, where he learned printmaking. The title of the exhibition comes from the way in which one of Ellison’s early printmaking instructors, Norman Wagner, described Ellison’s subject matter, referring to his prints as “urban landscapes and/or impressions.”
Ellison continued his education at Georgia State University, graduating with a master’s degree in visual arts. In 1985, he moved to teach at South Carolina State College (now South Carolina State University) and later started an artist-in-residence program and taught at Clafin College. His passion for printmaking flourished, and he developed a style that layered ink thickly enough to create texture as well as bright colors.
“Michael Ellison’s work represents an important piece to the discussion of not only African-American printmakers, but also the history of Georgia-based printmakers, their unique narratives and their contributions to the medium,” Harris said.
In 1991, an electrical fire badly disfigured the artist. As he began to recover and relearn how to make prints, he created works with striking colors focusing on scenes of isolation and community in urban landscapes. The Coca-Cola Corp., the Federal Reserve, Georgia Pacific and the High Museum of Art all collected Ellison’s work. He enjoyed success through the end of the decade, creating a mural in the Five Points district of Atlanta and producing solo exhibitions at the Hammonds House Galleries and Georgia Institute of Technology. Ellison passed away in 2001 from heart complications at age 48.
Related exhibition events include a public tour with Harris March 15 at 2 p.m., an Artful Conversation led by Sage Rogers, assistant curator of education, April 26 at 2 p.m., and a Toddler Tuesday May 9 at 10 a.m. (register by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org). All events are open free to the public unless otherwise indicated.