Mary Ellen Carroll

Guna S. Mundheim Visual Arts Fellow - Class of Spring 2016

Conceptual Artist, New York

Current Location: New York


New York-based conceptual artist Mary Ellen Carroll earned a Bachelor of Science degree with a minor in fine arts from the University of Colorado at Boulder. She received her MFA in 1989 from the School of the Art Institute in Chicago, where she studied time arts/filmmaking and architectural history.

Carroll’s work as an artist engages a range of disciplines, from architecture, public policy, writing, performance/film, and technology. Despite an oeuvre spanning more than twenty years and a disavowal of any signature style, Carroll has been investigating a single, fundamental question: what do we consider a work of art? She is dedicated to political and social critique and explores the interactions of subjectivity, language, and power/knowledge.

Her ongoing opus, prototype 180, was started in 1999 and utilizes the lack of land-use policy in Houston, Texas, to make architecture “perform.” The catalytic moment took place in 2010 with the 180-degree revolution of a single-family, postwar home and its surrounding acre of property. A Carroll piece may involve something as seemingly effortless as the trademarking of the work of another artist, such as GEPPO. It may be a bold architectural insertion, such as No. 18, commissioned for the 2012 Busan Biennial, South Korea. Or, it may be a complex undertaking, such as Public Utility 2.0, a recent commission for the biennial, Prospect.3 New Orleans. This work utilizes unused television frequencies for broadband connectivity in under-resourced locations as a twenty-first century analog to land art.

Carroll has exhibited at the Whitney Museum, the Institutes of Contemporary Art in London and Philadelphia, Museum für Völkerkunde in Munich, the Renaissance Society in Chicago, and Johann Jacobs Museum in Zurich, among other venues. Her work has been supported by the Guggenheim Foundation, Pollock-Krasner Foundation, Lambent Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation, MacDowell Colony, and Graham Foundation.

Lecture Summary

Published in Arts and Culture

Fellow Spotlight: Mary Ellen Carroll

Guna S. Mundheim Fellow in the Visual Arts

Throughout her career, conceptual artist Mary Ellen Carroll has been investigating a single, fundamental question: what do we consider a work of art? Carroll’s work occupies the disciplines of architecture/design and public policy, writing, performance, and film. Her ongoing projects prototype 180 and public utility 2.0, for example, stand at the intersection of conceptual art, architecture, public policy, and social justice. »