Darrel Ellis: Regeneration


Darrel Ellis, Self-Portrait after Photograph by Peter Hujar, 1989.

Brush and black ink and wash over charcoal on Asian-fiber paper mounted on canvas. Baltimore Museum of Art, purchase with exchange funds from the Pearlstone Family Fund and partial gift of The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc.; BMA 2019.159. © The Darrel Ellis Estate, Hannah Hoffman, Los Angeles, and Candice Madey, New York


  • October 20, 2023–January 14, 2024

  • Herzfeld Center for Photography and Media Arts

  • Free for Members

  • Included with admission

Living and creating in New York City in the 1980s, Darrel Ellis (1958–1992) anticipated current artistic interest in appropriation, archives, and personal narrative. He was an innovative artist who, through his multifaceted work, examined domestic life, selfhood, and stereotypes of Black masculinity. By the time of his death at age 33 from AIDS-related causes, Ellis had created a highly original body of work.

Darrel Ellis: Regeneration is the first major museum exhibition featuring the full breadth of Ellis’s moving work, which encompasses photography, painting, printmaking, and drawing. Photographs made by his father, a postal clerk and studio photographer who died before Ellis was born, were key among his source material. A student of art history, Ellis set the family scenes his father recorded in dialogue with paintings of Pierre Bonnard and other 19th-century artists he admired. Through his father’s negatives, Ellis, in his words, “investigat[ed] the sensibility of a man who was lost to me” and witnessed the life beloved relatives shared before he knew them.

In a later series of self-portraits, Ellis responded to images photographers Robert Mapplethorpe, Peter Hujar, and Allen Frame made of him. These self-portraits “after” other photographers, and a complementary set based on Ellis’s own negatives, offer an intimate perspective on identity and an artist whose life and career were cut short.

The exhibition is co-organized by the Baltimore Museum of Art and The Bronx Museum of the Arts.

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Supporting Sponsors

  • Joseph Pabst and John Schellinger

Community Sponsor

Contributing Sponsor

  • The Cream City Foundation Valentine Fund

Exhibitions in the Herzfeld Center for Photography and Media Arts sponsored by

  • Herzfeld Foundation

The Milwaukee Art Museum extends its sincere thanks to the 2023 Visionaries.

  • Mark and Debbie Attanasio

  • Donna and Donald Baumgartner

  • Murph Burke

  • Joel and Caran Quadracci

  • Sue and Bud Selig

  • Jeff and Gail Yabuki and the Yabuki Family Foundation