If you are lucky enough to know Dave Ellis, you might know him as a painter, a musician, a writer, or a specialized contractor designing and building custom recording studios for a veritable who’s who of the music world. I am lucky enough to know him in all of these personas. To put it simply Dave Ellis is a man and a half. Make a trip to Venticinque at 162 Fifth Ave in Park Slope and you will be treated to a show of ten of his paintings all created in 2014.
Dave has been drawing and painting since he was five. He began cartooning in high school when his Art Instructor (who had attended art school with John Lennon) made it possible for Dave to attend University level art classes for free.
Looking at his work today, you can see the influences of his background in cartooning. Dave mentions Robert Crumb and Charles Shultz as influences. The work is playful, full of punch, in a flat perspective. I collect art myself and have for sometime gone by a simple rule of thumb. I only buy art that I would be happy to look at on a daily basis. All of Dave’s work easily passes this test.
“Sick Day” one of the larger pieces in the show, is very much my favorite. Dave tells me it is his favorite as well. It features a clown, some what menacing, who is a repeated icon in much of Dave’s painting, in the bottom of the frame we see what might be a beer stein, it also might be a stylized baby that is being brought to suckle onto a stylized teat. Painted in oil this is a strong piece complete unto itself with lots of visual and editorial appeal. It is a true eye catcher.
Another piece that had a strong impact on me is “Hogtown” (the nickname for Toronto) The piece recalls Dave’s panhandling days on the street’s of Toronto. Dave very much identifies as a Canadian Artist, this piece is both gritty, playful and appealing to anyone regardless of age or background. Dave also has a background in commercial art and it is my feeling that many of these pieces would find a great home in an office, or other business establishment, the reason being that they can not help but to put the viewer in a positive and happy frame of mind.
Case in point is “Are You In Jimmy’s House” which is based on Dave’s experiences in Ditch Plains which is a surfing enclave near Montauk NY. It relates to a guy who many know there who manages several share houses. Vis a Vie “Are You In Jimmy’s House” is a perfect social introduction. Again the painting has strong punch and appeal, it is oil and acrylic on canvas.
Another of my personal favorites is “The 80s” which evokes a designer jeans ad. It is the rear view of an unusual pair of jeans that were popular in Canada. Painted over aluminum enamel paint and rendered in black ink it is an unusually strong and clean work that very much evokes Robert Crumb’s take on the female posterior.
When Dave hit town in the early 1990s his work was included in group shows at The Gallery Stendhal in Soho. He was in very good company showing his work with the likes of Ronnie Cutrone, Artfux, Ron English and Rick Prol.
While his work is whimsical, Dave’s process is anything but. He is a highly disciplined artist who rises early each day beginning with a page or two of writing and a morning sketch. Much of his work stems from these early morning musings. The show is up until Sunday February 8 at Venticinque 162 Fifth Ave Brooklyn NY. Visit www.daveellis.net