The Museum of the City of New York’s new exhibit “The City is My Muse” offers an animated and meaningful look into New York City through the eyes of New York native and artist Chris Ellis, better known by his nickname, Daze. Heavily influenced by street art, Ellis commits to a colorful and lively style that makes his work easily approachable for audiences both young and old.
The exhibit is featured in one room of the museum and is organized on each wall by the respective tone the pieces exude. On the left wall is a series of muted black-and-white works, while the others are decidedly more colorful and cartoonish. Some works are incredibly visceral, including “Strays on the Deuce” and “View to the Other Side,” which feature strong visages as the backgrounds to classic cityscapes.
Many of Ellis’ works feature important characters of the city, such as the famous tattooed man of Coney Island to whom he pays homage in “Indigo Mike Wilson.” Ellis is clearly inspired by the people he meets in the place he calls home. Staten Island, Manhattan, the Bronx and Coney Island are all featured in Ellis’ art.
Ellis’ nickname comes through in his work; some pieces are decidedly dazey, echoing the madness of the city. Times Square is uniquely shown through flashes of color and texture in “The Duel.” The feeling of the drop of the Coney Island coaster is visualized in “Cyclone Drop.” Much of Ellis’ earlier work depicts his partying days during the 1980s with flashy colors and graffiti-esque imagery. A personal favorite is “Electric Boogaloo,” one of Ellis’ first paintings.
Ellis claims to be greatly influenced by his contemporary Jean-Michel Basquiat, who he collaborated with on some of his first works. While both artists were clearly influenced by their locales in 1980s New York City, their work is incredibly different; Ellis is much less frenzied in his genius conception. The excitement is still there — the works are simply more coherent and reachable.
Ellis’ work is deserving of a spot within this museum, as his work is emphatically in and of New York City. He has been previously featured in permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, The Brooklyn Museum, The Groninger Museum in the Netherlands and The Ludwig Museum in Aachen, Germany. He also has a comprehensive website, appropriately titled “Dazeworld,” featuring much of his work, categorized by their artistic mediums and display locations. Admittedly, it is much better to experience in person.
The exhibit opened on Wednesday, Nov. 18, and will remain on display until May 1, 2016. Admission to the museum is free to you and a guest with your NYU ID.
Email Natalie Whalen at [email protected]