Chris “Daze” Ellis in Dialogue with the Collection at The Addison

The NYC Graffiti Artist joins Whistler, Homer and Pollock at The Addison

Currently the Addison Gallery of American Art in Massachusetts is hosting New York 1970s graffiti writer DAZE in Street Talk: Chris Daze Ellis in Dialogue with the Collection. At the exhibit opening a few weeks ago, a number of New Yorkers, including other writers and bombers from that period, friends, family, a few historians and curators took the trip to Andover to see Mr. Ellis receive recognition for his contribution to the graffiti art canon as well as to give witness to how his evolution as studio artist continues. Today photographer, writer, poet, and alchemist Todd Mazer takes BSA readers to the show and talks to Daze about his personal route through NYC to this station in MA.brooklyn-street-art-DAZE-TODD-MAZER-The-Addison-Gallery-American-Art-web-16 Daze (photo © Todd Mazer)

Inside a historic museum which houses one of the most significant collections of American Art a wide range of patrons gather. Some are still learning how to tie their shoes while others have likely built a lifetime of things with out the aid of an internet tutorial look on at works that seem to speak universally. What they are gazing upon is Street Talk: Chris “Daze” Ellis’s exhibition featuring his recent work in a dialogue with the Addison Gallery of American Arts expansive collection.


Daze (photo © Todd Mazer)

One observer is Maria Muller, Deputy Director of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.  “I feel like the practical need to work quickly on the trains in his early career seems to be reflected in the dynamic style and sense of motion and speed in his images.”

As Daze gets mobbed up for photo ops in front of his piece entitled “View to the Other Side”, he reflects upon his identity and the initial spark that has led up to this moment. “People don’t realize when I was painting trains that it wasn’t a cool thing to do and it wasn’t socially acceptable,” he says.

“I began painting in 1976 after meeting a bunch of writers at The High School of Art and Design in New York. I was learning things in school but this was something outside of art school that was completely unconventional that I found incredibly creative and exciting. It is something that still fascinates me to this day. There is something very addictive about it.”


Daze (photo © Todd Mazer)



Daze (photo © Todd Mazer)

This graffiti addiction seems to be spreading to museums as well. Since 2011’s “Art in the Streets” exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Arts in Los Angeles, which was billed as “the first major U.S. museum survey of graffiti and street art”, more museums have begun to embrace this movement. Current exhibitions like “City as Canvas: The Martin Wong Graffiti Collection” at the Museum of the City of New York and the Addison’s “Loisaida: New York’s Lower East Side in the 80’s” also both prominently feature the work of Daze, for example.

Allison Kemmerer, The Addison’s Curator of Photography and Art after 1950, explains what is bringing these two worlds together. “One of the strengths of the Addison’s collection is its wealth of urban imagery from all periods and in all media.”

“Daze’s drawing from the vocabulary of both the contemporary world of graffiti and street art and the tradition of urban realism, this is exactly what attracts the Addison to him. We are always mindful of the continuum that exists between historic and contemporary art and the way objects speak back and forth to each other across media and time.”


Daze (photo © Todd Mazer)



Daze. Detail. (photo © Todd Mazer)

Daze’s journey to lead up to this point has clearly been an evolving process. “Almost all my paintings now are a mixture of mediums, each medium has it own characteristics and its own kind of history attached to it and you have to be patient to be able to deal with and find a way for them to all coexist in one picture frame.  I had to work with them for a long time separately before I felt like I could combine them and come up with something that looked new.


Daze. Detail. (photo © Todd Mazer)



Daze. Detail. (photo © Todd Mazer)

As Daze has matured as an artist, he has also discovered there is more to being a successful artist than just painting a ruggedly pretty picture. “The art world was and still is a really hard place to navigate through and some people are able to do a better job at grasping it then others,” he explains.

“I think in a lot of cases collectors have a lot more power with museums than even artists and play a very important role in all of this, somebody like John Axelrod who is very passionate about this art form, has the ability to start dialogs with these museums and I’m grateful he’s chosen to amplify voices like mine.”


From left to right Sean Corcoran, Jayson TERROR161 Edlin, DAZE, and Charlie Ahearn  (photo © Todd Mazer)



Daze (photo © Todd Mazer)

As the crowd begins to thin out, Daze expresses the magnitude of this personal milestone “Even at a young age, I was always going to the library or museums so now it’s kind of mind boggling having my work in them because I still remember what it felt like to be that kid walking through the Brooklyn Museum.”


Daze. Detail. (photo © Todd Mazer)


Daze. Detail. (photo © Todd Mazer)


Daze (photo © Todd Mazer)


Daze having a word with Jackson Pollock. (photo © Todd Mazer)


Daze (photo © Todd Mazer)


Our special thanks to Todd Mazer for sharing his take on this this story with BSA readers. To learn more about Todd’s work, please click HERE and check him out on Instagram.

Street Talk: Chris Daze Ellis in Dialogue with the Collection
May 3 – July 31, 2014
Addison Gallery of American Art
Andover, Massachussetts


Street Talk: Chris Daze Ellis in Dialogue with the Collection


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