Coming of age in the Bronx in the 1960s and ’70s, John “Crash” Matos first picked up a can of spray paint at the age of 13 to cut his teeth as a graffiti artist by “bombing” the subway trains in the New York City rail yards. He has not stopped since. His bold, blocky signature—CRASH—greeted subway riders in the 1970s and ’80s, New York’s economically dire, artistically fertile days. By the 1980s, with the embrace of his work by galleries and at the urging of his friend and contemporary, Keith Haring, Crash was translating his explosive outdoor murals to the canvas’s more contained plane. He remains busy with commissions and collaborations, claiming that his future holds “more work, more painting, more strats, more walls, more lobsters, more steaks…in other words more living to do.”
Growing up, Ellis admired the gritty New York scene with unbridled passion. He recalls “There was a moment when I saw a train pulling into a station with cartoon characters from Mad Magazine on it and that’s when I knew I had to be part of the scene.” After this introduction he took to spray painting, “I didn’t know if it was art” he reminisces “but I knew it was creative”. Daze moved through the streets with immense curiosity, covering the concrete canvases about him. Through his Art & Design high school he met other talented creatives and began collaborating with them for the next decade. He took to the streets armed with a spray paint can in hand, scaling buildings, dodging the police and illuminating every unadorned wall and space that appealed to him. He named these his “outlaw installations”.