By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Sep 12, 2023 at 1:01 PM

When Milwaukee Art Museum opens “Darrel Ellis: Regeneration,” it will mark the first major museum show exploring the photography, painting, printmaking and drawings of the Bronx-born artist, who died in 1992 at age 33.

The show, which opens Oct. 20 and runs through Jan. 14, is co-organized by the Baltimore Museum of Art and The Bronx Museum of the Arts. It will hang in the Herzfeld Center for Photography and Media Arts on the museum’s lower level.

“Darrel Ellis is a prime example of someone whose work expands the possibilities of contemporary art,” said Marcelle Polednik, Ph.D., Donna and Donald Baumgartner director of the Milwaukee Art Museum.

“This exhibition continues the Museum’s commitment to championing the work of artists who deserve to be recognized for the contributions they have made to the field. As the only Midwest venue for this impactful survey, we are excited to share Ellis’s long under-recognized career with our visitors.”  

According to MAM some exhibition Highlights include:

  • Self-Portrait after Photograph by Peter Hujar, 1989, a self-portrait by Ellis inspired by a photograph taken by Peter Hujar.  
  • Untitled (Mother, Father, and Laure), 1990, an example of Ellis’s analog photographic experiments re-interpreting his father’s negatives. (Pictured above)
  • Untitled (Katrina Styling Susan’s Hair), ca. 1985–1988, which pays homage to the domestic scenes of 19th-century French painters such as Édouard Vuillard and embodies Ellis’s efforts to reinscribe Black families into the traditions of Western art history.  
  • Untitled (Woman with Leopard Skin), ca. 1988-1991, an experiment with color photography and color film that demonstrates Ellis’s innovative approach and openness to new materials.

Although Ellis and his work gained some attention in the 1980s and ‘90s, it hasn’t been seen as much since. This show – the first museum-organized monographic exhibition of the artist’s oeuvre – aims to change that.

“Ellis created new works from his father’s photographs through darkroom manipulation, reframing – or as the exhibition’s title suggests, regenerating – narratives around family and identity,” said Ariel Pate, the museum's assistant curator of photography.

“This significant exhibition offers an opportunity to look closely at Ellis’s distinctive studio practice and understand how he thoughtfully transformed photographs taken by himself and others to create profoundly deep and personal works.”

The exhibition will be accompanied by a catalogue and a range of related events.

You can find information on all of it at

Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.

He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.

With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.

He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.

In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.

He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.