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Ellen Phelan Edit Profile


Ellen Phelan, American Artist. National Endowment for Arts grantee, 1978-1979; recipient American Academy Arts and Letters award, 1995, Arts Achievement award Wayne State University, 1989. F C.


Phelan, Ellen was born on November 3, 1943 in Detroit, Michigan, United States.


Bachelor of Fine Arts, Wayne State University, 1969; Master of Fine Arts, Wayne State University, 1971.


She received her B.A. and M.F.A. degrees from Wayne State University, Phelan worked as a substitute teacher in the Detroit public school system and worked in the Detroit Museum of Art as an assistant to curator Sam Wagstaff. She also worked with a group of Detroit artistis to establish the cooperative Willis Gallery. Phelan relocated to New York City in 1973.

Phelan's work is included in the collections of Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Museum. Her early work from the early 1970s and before contrasts greatly from her work from the mid-1970s going forward. Of this shift, Phong Bui notes, "during the mid-1970s, when she turned away from process art in favor of plein-air landscape painting, which she began in the Adirondacks in the summer of 1976, it was a decisive turn, and it enhanced her natural touch as a painter." New York Times art critic Ken Johnson wrote, "Ellen Phelan has painted her way through a number of phases over the last three decades, from formalist abstractions to psychologically fraught portraits of antique dolls to meditative still lifes to the pastoral landscapes that this show comprises.

What has remained consistent, besides an always assiduous care for the craft of painting, has been the Modernist tension between material surface and illusory depth and a postmodernist play between romance and irony."\r\nIn an interview with Phong Bui, in The Brooklyn Rail, Phelan says of her Fan pieces: "Most of them thought they were sculpture, but I saw them as paintings. For me it was a way of stretching painting. By working with irregular perimeters, I felt it was a continuation of the earlier things I was doing which involved cutting and tearing, folding, collaging the fabric, then painting on both sides.

The only difference is that the Fan pieces were painted only on one side, and they were more involved with the shallow space of Cubism."\r\nPhelan is married to sculptor Joel Shapiro.


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  • Other Work

    • One-woman exhibitions include Willis Gallery, Detroit, 1972, 74, Artist's Space, New York City, 1975, Susanne Hilberry Gallery, Birmingham, Michigan, 1977, 79, 81, 82, 84, 86, 88, 90, 92, 94, Wadsworth Athenaeum, Hartford, Connecticut, 1979, Ruth Schaffner Gallery, Los Angeles, 1979, The Clocktower, New York City, 1980, Hansen-Fuller-Goldeen Gallery, San Francisco, 1980, 82, Dart Gallery, Chicago, 1981, Barbara Toll Fine Arts, New York City, 1982, 85, 86, 87-88, 89, 90, 92, 93, Asher/Faure, Los Angeles, 1989, 92, 94, Baltimore Museum Art, 1989, Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, 1991, University Massachusetts Amherst Fine Arts Center, 1992, Saidye Bronfman Center, Montreal, Quebec, 1993, Contemporary Museum, Honolulu, 1993, John Stoller, Incorporated, Minneapolis, 1993, Cincinnati Art Museum, 1994. Exhibited in group shows at Detroit Institute Arts, 1970, 80, Willis Gallery, Detroit, 1971, 79, J.L. Hudson Gallery, Detroit, 1972, Cranbrook Academy Art, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, 1972, 79, 84, Grand Rapids (Michigan) Art Museum, 1974, Paula Cooper Gallery, New York City, 1975, 76, 77, 78, 79, 90, Fine Arts Building, New York City, 1976, Academy der Kunste, Berlin, 1976, Susanne Hilberry Gallery, Birmingham, 1976-1977, 83, 85, 91, Willard Gallery, New York City, 1977, Kansas City (Missouri) Art Institute, 1977, National Association of Miniature Enthusiasts Gallery, Chicago, 1977, Hallwalls, Buffalo, 1977, Museum Modern Art, New York City, 1978, 89, 92, Weatherspoon Art Gallery University North Carolina, Greensboro, 1979, 92, Albright-Knox Gallery, Buffalo, 1979, Brown University, Providence, 1980, XIII Olympic Winter Games, Lake Placid, New York, 1980, Jeffrey Fuller Fine Art, Philadelphia, 1980, Portland (Oregon) Center for Visual Arts, 1980, The Drawing Center, New York City, 1980, 82, Brooke Alexander Gallery, New York City, 1980, Museum Contemporary Art, Chicago, 1980, 81, P.S. 1 Museum, New York City, 1981, 92, Art Latitude Gallery, New York City, 1981, Leo Castelli Gallery, New York City, 1981, Sutton Place, Guildford, England, 1982, Gallerie d'Arte Moderna di Ca'Pesaro, Venice, Italy, 1982, Institute Contemporary Art of Virgini Museum, Richmond, Virginia, 1982, Galerie Biedermann, Munich, 1982, Thomas Segal Gallery, Boston, 1983, Fuller-Goldeen Gallery, San Francisco, 1983, 86, William Paterson College, Wayne, New Jersey, 1983, 89, Artist's Space, New York City, 1983, 84, Harborside Industrial Center, Brooklyn, 1983, Organization Indiana Artists, New York City, 1984, Bernice Steinbaum Gallery, New York City, 1984, Brentwood Gallery, St. Louis, 1984, University California, Irvine, 1984, University Northern Iowa Gallery Art, Cedar Falls, 1984, Hudson River Museum, New York City, 1984, Barbara Toll Fine Arts, New York City, 1984, 85, 86, 87, Detroit Focus Gallery, 1984, Cable Gallery, New York City, 1984, Wayne State University, Detroit, 1984, Matthews Hamilton Gallery, Philadelphia, 1984, Barbara Krakow Gallery, Boston, 1984, BlumHelman Warehouse, New York City, 1984, Pam Adler Gallery, New York City, 1985, Daniel Weinberg Gallery, Los Angeles, 1985, 89, Knight Gallery, Charlotte, North Carolina, 1985, Bank of Boston, 1986, Whitney Museum American Art, Stamford, Connecticut, 1987, 89, Scott Hansen Gallery, New York City, 1987, Saxon-Lee Gallery, Los Angeles, 1987, Parrish Art Museum, East Hampton, New York, 1987, Curt Marcus Gallery, New York, 1988, Loughelton Gallery, New York City, 1988, 90, Whitney Museum American Art, New York City, 1988, 91, Hillwood Art Gallery C.W. Post Campus, Brookville, New York, 1989, United States Information Agency traveling exhibition, 1989, Edward Thorp Gallery, New York City, 1989, Pine Street Lobby Gallery, San Francisco, 1989, Fuller Gross Gallery, San Francisco, 1989, Solo Press/Soho Gallery, New York City, 1989, Maxwell Davidson Gallery, New York City, 1989, Blum Helman Gallery, New York City, 1989, R.I.S.D., Providence, 1989, Graham Modern, New York City, 1990, Hood Museum Art Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, 1990, 92, New Britain Museum American Art, Hartford, Connecticut, 1991, Asher-Faure, Los Angeles, 1991, Annina Nosei Gallery, New York City, 1991, Lintas Worldwide, New York City, 1991, Nina Fredenheim Gallery, Buffalo, 1991, Molica Guidarte Gallery, New York City, 1991, Squibb Gallery, Princeton, New Jersey, 1991, Cleveland State University Gallery, 1992, Indiana Curators Incorporated, New York York City, 1992, Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, Ohio, 1992, Transamerica Corporation, San Francisco, 1992, The Gallery Three Zero, New York City, 1992, Haggerty Museum Art, Milwaukee, Barbara Methes Gallery, New York City, Asher Fauve Gallery, Los Angeles, Hillwood Art Museum, Brookville, New York, Pamela Auchincloss Gallery, New York City, Leo Castelli Gallery, New York City. Represented in permanent collections Museum Modern Art, New York City, Whitney Museum American Art, New York City, Brooklyn Museum, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, Baltimore Museum, Toledo Museum Art, Hood Museum Dartmouth College, High Museum Art, Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Moderna Museet, Stockholm, Museum Contemporary Art, Mexico City, Detroit Institute Arts, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Whitehead Institute, Philip Morris, Incorporated, Volvo Corporation, Chase Manhattan Bank, Chemical Bank, BankAm.

      , Bank of America, Prudential Insurance Company, United States Trust & Company, Inter Metro Industries, Lannan Foundation, numerous private collections.


Daughter of Thomas Edward and Katherine Louise (Gojlewicz) P. Married Joel Elias Shapiro, November 22, 1978.

Thomas Edward Phelan

Katherine Louise (Gojlewicz) Phelan

Joel Elias Shapiro