DAZE (Chris Ellis)

The graffiti artist Daze (aka Chris Ellis) is born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1962. In 1980 he attends Technical College and the High School of Art & Design in New York. Yet, according to Daze himself, he receives his real education in the New York subways, »where I majored in exterior graphic design« (Ausst.-Kat. München 1984).

Like Jean-Michel Basquiat or Lee Quinones, Daze belongs to the group of New York graffiti artists coming together in the South Bronx in the 1970s. Daze’s »tags« and »pieces« appear on subway trains in Brooklyn and the Bronx in the late 1970s. While the letters at first tend to mark the territory of street gangs, they more and more serve to create a »style.« Daze becomes a member of the group CYA (Crazy Young Artists). Other groups call themselves Three Yard Boys, Ebony Dukes, Rebels, Death Squad, or Wild Style. Daze’s style is characterized by comic-like picture stories, combined with letters.

Aside from painting on walls and trains, Daze starts to paint on canvas in the early 1980s and to exhibit internationally. His works are mostly characterized by a style that creates an overlapping of various levels of reality. Single pictorial scenes interact with ornamented and lettered picture grounds (125th Street, James van derZee). Daze proves to be an expert on film and music history, whose heroes and lascivious beauties populate the sprayed canvas. As opposed to Quinones, his selection of motifs is more sentimental, and he focuses on more popular pictorial worlds, borrowing from Edward Hopper and Reginald March (Smooth Operator,1985).

Since the beginning of the 1980s Daze’s works are presented at international exhibitions, for example in Tokyo (1983), in the New York Museum of American Graffiti (1989), in Basel (Gallerie Four, 1998), in the Museum of Modern Art in Nice (1999), and in Paris (2004). Daze himself comments on the newer developments in grafitti art: »In the early eighties lots of people were showing graffiti. Now in New York no one is, so a lot of older guys have gone on to commercial stuff like clothing and album covers. Europe has always been more supportive of the movement. Crash and I where shown at the Museum of Modern Art in Nice. We don’t have to keep up with the art world, the art world has to keep up with us« (Daze, in: Arts International Magazine, 2000).

Daze lives and works in New York.

Selected Literature

Pittura dura, dal graffitismo alla street art: Ausst.-Kat. Turin Fondazione Palazzo Bricherasio, Turin 1999

American Graffiti: Ausst.-Kat. Museo Civico di Castelnuovo Neapel, hg. v. Achille Bonito Oliva, Neapel 1997

Stahl, Johannes: Graffiti, Zwischen Alltag und Ästhetik, München 1990

Bianchi, Paolo (Hg.): Graffiti, Wandkunst u. wilde Bilder, Basel 1984

Classical Amercan Graffiti Writers and High Graffiti Artist: Ausst.-Kat. München Galerie Thomas, München 1984

Castleman, Craig: Getting up. Subway graffiti in New York, Cambridge/Mass. u.a. 1982

New York Graffiti: Ausst.-Kat. Wilhelm-Hack-Museum Ludwigshafen, hg. v. Richard W. Gassen, Ludwigshafen, 1987

Foto: Tobias Roch, Hagen Bildrechte: gemeinfrei, Foto: Peter Hinschläger Bildrechte: Calder Foundation New York / Foto Stiftung Lehmbruck Museum Bildrechte: VG Bild Kunst, Bonn 2014

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