Isaac and Ellen


Like many people, I was saddened and surprised by the passing of two icons over the weekend: actor/comedian Bernie Mac and singer, songwriter, producer and musician Isaac Hayes. The image of Hayes above was the basis for a limited edition print—simply titled Isaac—by Ellen Gallagher (Season 3). Art21 explains the artist’s process to arrive at the finished piece (pictured below):

“[Gallagher] combined printmaking processes such as aquatint, photogravure, and intaglio with elements applied by hand such as collage, plasticine and googly eyes. To create Isaac, Gallagher enlisted both traditional techniques, such as etching, with the latest in computer technology. Gallagher used a motorized needle to carve into an aluminum plate, printing the design in black ink onto a lithograph of Isaac Hayes using a press. In another step, a computer-driven laser cut shapes in the print which the artist removed by hand with a knife. Gallagher adds the final details by hand, such as rhinestones and plasticine eyes, transforming the original image of Isaac Hayes into a new character that’s part of the artist’s lexicon.”

“Isaac” from “Deluxe,” 2004-2005.Lithography, tattoo engraving, laser-cutting, crystals, gold leaf, velvet, and plasticine. Photo by D. James Dee Courtesy Two Palms Press, New York © Ellen Gallagher.

Though his career was multifaceted, Hayes is most remembered for the theme song to the Gordon Parks movie Shaft, for which he received an Academy Award in 1971. The song and the movie score also won Grammy awards for best original score and movie theme; Hayes was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002. He was also known as the voice of “Chef” on the animated series South Park.

Isaac was printed at Two Palms Press in New York and debuted in Gallagher’s solo exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 2005. Learn more about Gallagher’s Isaac print here.


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