Ellis Gallagher is known primarily for chalk drawings made by outlining shadows in the streets of New York City. Gallagher was born on September 9, 1973. He is a native New Yorker living in the Greenpoint section of Brooklyn. Before his chalk drawings he was a graffiti writer, working in NYC mostly. He was arrested for this in 1999 and given community service and probation. He stopped doing traditional graffiti writing in 2001 after the death of Hector Ramirez (a friend and writing partner), who was hit by a train while painting in a Brooklyn subway tunnel. Gallagher started his chalk drawing in early 2005, the first drawing being an outline of a fire hydrant after days of being fixated with shadows.
Gallagher's chalk work calls attention to common objects on the street (mailboxes, fire hydrants, lampposts, etc.) and often outline simple solid shadows, but they also have been done of bicycles, wire mesh garbage cans, fencing etc. leaving a complex pattern behind. At night the shadows are visible and the source of the outlines obvious. In the day time the outline becomes empty, recalling the shadow of a shadow. The technique of his work is simple (an outline in traditional broad chalk of existing shadows), yet presents complex issues relating to drawing, ready-mades, public art context, the temporary nature of the work, and a legal/political institutional critique. The longest one of his works has lasted is a month, but they usually disappear earlier because of rain. However, Gallagher signs and photographs each work, making the art work the drawing, the performance, and the photograph itself.
The work functions as critique of State's opposition to graffiti, through the law, the courts and the police. Police claim the drawing is graffiti, but while New York City's administrative code says defacing streets is illegal, the status of sidewalk drawing is unclear. More importantly, in New York graffiti is defined as "etching, painting, covering, drawing upon or otherwise placing of a mark upon public or private property with intent to damage such property." Writing in chalk is erasable and disappears after a rain, leaving it highly questionable whether this can be called damage, and hence graffiti. Gallagher was once arrested for drawing and signing his name in chalk. Charges were dropped, but he spent 17 hours in jail for which he is suing the city, claiming false arrest and unlawful imprisonment. Paul Hale, Gallagher's lawyer, claims using chalk on the sidewalk is perfectly legal.
Despite the legal ambiguities, his work is perceived solidly in the genre of modern graffiti, or "Street Art." Ellis Gallagher’s use of chalk is reminiscent of Keith Haring's initial use of white chalk on the black paper of unused subway advertising spots.
His work can be found in New York City and beyond. Photos can be seen in Autograf: New York City's Graffiti Writers by Peter Sutherland (Powerhouse Books), as well as in numerous newspapers, magazines, on television and in films. Currently a Contemporary Artist and Street Artist, Gallagher's work has appeared on the cover of Time Out New York, in the New York Daily News, The New York Times, New York Magazine, The Village Voice, The Brooklyn Paper, Mass Appeal Magazine, Artnet Magazine, Der Spiegel Germany, The Area Revue France, H Magazine Spain, as well as on NY 1, RAI TV Italy, Chinese News Network, NYCTV, The Channel, Current T.V., WPIX 11 (NYC), NBC 4 (NYC), WNET 13 PBS(NYC) and the streets of New York City and beyond. Gallagher will publish his first book "Adhesives," the ultimate compendium of graffiti, graphic design and street art stickers with Miss Rosen Editions for Powerhouse Books. Gallagher produces Street Art, Contemporary Art and Commercial Art in New York City and Abroad.