Urban Spree Galerie presents New York Perspectives, a duo show featuring Chris “Daze” Ellis and Joe Conzo, curated by Mode2. The vernissage will be on Friday, November 22nd, at 18:30, in presence of the two artists.
Through the work of two New York City-born artists, a painter and a photographer, this exhibition is an attempt to show aspects of New York City life, through the eyes and the work of two very different individuals; though both come from a part of its counterculture.
The drawings and paintings of the artist Chris “Daze” Ellis, and those many moments and people captured by the photography of Joe Conzo show us how the youth that were more in osmosis with the steel, the concrete, the glass, the streets and the city’s subway system, could develop new forms of visual dialogue that could form a bridge between their own social and cultural background, and a movement that would infiltrate the artworld and become a global phenonmenon.
Coming from different neighbourhoods and cultural backgrounds, both have lived long enough to have witnessed first hand the huge transformations that the city has gone through over these last decades, while their “work”, which was actually their hobby, passion and life pretty much, has documented seminal eras during that time.
These tumultuous years of cultural flux; of blossoming, blooming, destruction and rebirth, are often overlooked by today’s focus on the “now” of street art, and the way through which this eclipses the very alchemy that gave birth to the way in which artists express themselves in the street today, or the way in which they document city life.
It is doubtful that much of what is happening today in visual art, music, dance and written or spoken word ever would have happened, if generations of youth in New York City had not lived what they did many decades ago; and we can count ourselves lucky that a few rare individuals happened to be there and have the instinct to document it.
Here then, are views of New York from two different perspectives, they themselves being a complex accumulation of all of life’s experiences, and how they shape each individual’s understanding of the world around them; and the ways by which they choose to express and share this with us.
Urban Spree Prints will release two 18″x 24″ silk screen prints by Daze on the opening night and online.
The gallery and the curator heartily thank Henry Chalfant for letting us show his documentary movie “From Mambo to Hip Hop: A South Bronx Tale.”
Poster Artwork by Tyler Askew.
“New York Perspectives”
Christopher “Daze” Ellis / Joe Conzo
Curated by Mode2
22.11 – 21.12.2019
Urban Spree Galerie
Revaler Str. 99
Opening: Friday 22.11.2019 at 18:30
Exhibition: Tu-Sa – 12:00 – 18:30
Info & Catalogue: firstname.lastname@example.org
Chris “Daze” Ellis
Growing up in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, Chris Daze Ellis (b. 1962) was aware from early on of the names and the odd characters that would be dancing along the trains that wove their way through the city. When he started out at the High School of Art & Design in 1976, he found that there was a whole community of very diverse yet like-minded individuals there, also involved with this scene; some of whom would go on to make a name for themselves in the art world.
Being a fan of drawing and comic books already, Daze camouflaged his nighttime activities under his parents’ gaze, exploring and expanding his visual vocabulary, combining the traditional with the dynamism of a new and challenging environment, with stimulus of its own.
Having mastered the medium and the environment, Daze would go on to shape his own personal vision of the world, looking as much inwards as outwards, in the relationship between the trains and walls, and what he could further explore in the studio. The strength of his successful life as an artist in his own right would develop from then on.
From his participation in his first group show, Beyond Words, at the Mudd Club in 1981, before having his own solo show at Fashion Moda (the historical South Bronx art space that bridged the established art world with the raw talent and energy coming out of New York City), Daze embraced the wide horizon that opened up before him.
From then on, Daze began to show in many different cities around the world, whether it be galleries and museum, in solo shows as well as group formats. He has participated in many public or educational art projects around the world, working with students and communities from South Korea to Brazil via Haiti, while often visiting Europe as well, and contributing to New York mural initiatives like the Leap Arts Program or Thrive Collective.
From his appearances in the film Style Wars, to being an art consultant on the Netflix series The Get Down in 2017, to participating in public painting projects from the Star Ferry Terminal in Hong Kong in 1993, painting an entire Hannover train station with fellow artists Lee Quinones and John Crash Matos, or being commissioned for murals by private clients like the law firm, Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton in Washington D.C. 2018; Daze has constantly had his hands on a whole range of different projects.
Daze’s paintings have found themselves in many private collections including Eric Clapton, Natalie Imbruglia, and Madonna. His work can also be found in the permanent collections of The Whitney Museum, NY, Museum of Modern art, NY, The Museum of the city of New York, The Ludwig Museum, Aachen, Yale University art Gallery, New Haven, Addison Museum of American Art at the Phillips Academy, Andover.
Chris Daze Ellis continues to live and work in New York City.
Joe Conzo was born in the Bronx during an era of great upheaval, when the construction of the Cross Bronx Expressway was nearing its end, having destroyed the communities that lay in its path, and condemning those parts of the borough around it to social and economic decline. The apocalyptic landscapes of urban devastation, and the high criminality associated to it are emblematic of that era.
President Truman’s Urban Renewal announced in 1949, ruthlessly applied by Robert Moses, targetted the more modest and ethnically diverse neighbourhoods of New York City whose resistance to forced removal would fall on deaf ears, as private developers grabbed the prime lots. The Bronx represented both the laboratory and the collateral damage for these extreme experiments of urban renewal.
And yet, out of what looked like an urban war zone, the city’s youth began to pick up the pieces, and, out of the desolation around them, began to build their own road out of it. Realising that the state was not going to do anything positive for them, their survival instincts eventually kicked in; and out of the gang culture, the drugs, and the sheer nihilism that had reigned for a while over much of the borough, new and greener shoots were beginning to break through.
Joe Conzo’s cultural capital, and that of his peers, was probably key to his survival and his blossoming during those harsh years; grandson of Dr. Evelina López Antonetty, a political activist who played a huge role in developing educational programmes for Puerto Rican children, and son of Joe Conzo Snr., who was in the thick of the huge Latin music scene of that bridged those decades; hanging with all the main players of that era, and having been the biographer of Tito Puente.
While studying at the Agnes Russell School on the campus of Columbia University, he discovered photography, the medium that would enable him to document what went on around him; from the world of latin culture through his father’s connections, to the collision of art forms that would later be called Hip Hop; a word that eclipses the sum of its parts.
Having lived many ups and downs in the eighties, to a rebirth of sorts, Joe Conzo went on to become a qualified medical nurse, then worked for the New York City Fire Department, being among the first responders on 9/11. At some point along the way, he was reunited with the camera, and began shooting again…
Whether as the photographer of rap crew The Cold Crush Brothers, a hugely influential group of MCs from the early days, or just a boy from the Bronx who had a camera and curious eyes, Joe Conzo’s photos provided reference material to Henry Chalfant ‘s documentary “From Mambo to Hip Hop: A South Bronx Tale.”, and were documented in a book called “Born In The Bronx: A Visual Record of the Early Days of Hip Hop”.
His negatives have been digitalised and archived at Cornell University, providing a unique and indispensable resource for those wishing to research the those eras.