Mary Ellen Carroll’s prolific career as a conceptual artist spans more than twenty years and a range of disciplines, from art to architecture, performance, and film. Her work interrogates the relationship between subjectivity, language, and power. The touchstones of her practice are the double, the imitation and the copy, and these motifs are applied to a range of ends, from conjuring the unheimlich to probing the means of distribution and interpretation of the work of art.
A Modest Proposal/A Modist Prepozel (1990-1991) comprises eight wool World War II–era naval blankets monogrammed with the entirety of the eponymous essay by Jonathan Swift, a quintessential work of satiric irony that includes the monstrous advice by the narrator that the rich cannibalize the infants of the poor.
The body of work act of god (1999) engages Mies Van der Rohe’s famous “glass house” on the Fox River in Plano, Illinois not far from Chicago. To confront the paramount role photography plays in the dissemination of architectural design, Carroll attempted to create works that encode as much information as possible in a reproducible image.
The drawings of actions to make architecture perform were started in 1992 . They are ink on paper and consist of commands or processes that were applied to architectural elevations, plans and profiles. 20 years later, we see how these drawings influenced the rotational process for prototype 180.
Carroll is the recipient of numerous grants and honors, including, most recently, a 2010 Graham Foundation Fellowship for prototype 180 and innovation territory and the AIA’s Artist of the Year Award. She has received a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Pollack/Krasner Award, a Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship, and the MacDowell Colony Fellowship. Her work has been exhibited at numerous American and international galleries, including the Whitney Museum-New York, ICA-Philadelphia, the Renaissance Society-Chicago, ICA-London, Museum für Völkerkunde-Munich, and MOMUK-Vienna. Her work resides in numerous public and private collections. A monograph of her work published by SteidlMACK (London/Göttingen) received the AIGA’s 2010 Book of the Year Award. Carroll teaches in the architecture school at Rice University, Houston, Texas.