Daze, born Chris Ellis, was a pioneer of the New York graffiti scene throughout the 1970’s and 80’s.He began his prolific career as a high school student and flourished while spray painting subways and concrete walls around parts of NYC. His contemporaries include Keith Haring, Dondi and Lee Quinones. Daze is one of the few muralists who successfully made the evolution from the streets into the studio.
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”.
Through his transition into studio, Daze worked both on the streets and in studio for several years. He stopped painting subways gradually as he watched the graffiti scene evolve before him, “The whole aspect of graffiti was changing” he told TimeOut in an interview, “A new generation was coming in and I thought that I should pass the baton on to them.” While making this decision he downsized his work onto canvases and more traditional mediums. Through this he explored more personal, intimate themes. “My work became more representational and more figurative, reflecting the environment that I came out of. I felt that I could express myself deeper.” His canvas pieces communicate differently to his humorous cartoon characters that were so distincitve as murals but nevertheless his work completey moved gallerists and their audiences alike.
He sold his first work at a group show titled “Beyond Words” at Mudd Club in 1981, the exhibition also included works from prominent artists such as Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat. The year after, Daze had his first solo show at a gallery called Fashion Moda in the Bronx. Since his debut he has had numerous solo shows around the globe. He has been shown independently in cities extending as far as Monte Carlo, Hong Kong, Paris, New York, Beijing and many more.
Over the past four decades he has collaborated with many names such as Os Gemeos and Scharf and completed an impressive portfolio of public art projects. His work has been collected by established museums such as The Museum of Modern art in NY, The Brooklyn Museum and The Groniger Museum in the Netherlands.
His paintings can be found in the private collections of Madonna and Eric Clapton amongst others.
More recently, Daze has been an integral part of inspiring young students in the arts. While he acknowledged that mentorship was an unexpected benefit for him he remarked that it has been one of his proudest moments as an artist. From travelling through underdeveloped parts of the world, the favella in Rio de Janeiro and dilapidated neighbourhoods in Baton Rouge he teaches workshops to help students along with understanding their creative potential. “I encourage students to look at me as a door that they can walk through and come out with experience” he states. From vandal of the streets, to renowned gallery success, to mentor of the underprivileged, Daze is not only an incredibly talented artist but the definition of a multifaceted success.
Distassi Art Team