Steve Ellis merges realist painting with Pop art to create vibrant social critiques. Recently, Ellis has focused on the environmental repercussions of consumer culture, featuring damaged disposable items such as cigarette lighters. He has recently created two statement pieces of monumental scale (7.5 x 14 ft each) rendered in his signature stylistic technique of painting what appears to be a collage of torn magazine pages. Ellis has exhibited extensively throughout the United States and abroad. He created the title drawings for the Alejandro Amenabar movie ‘The Others’ starring Nicole Kidman, and was recently included in two collective shows, respectively featuring works by Yoko Ono and Tim Burton.
One of New York’s finest Pop Realist painters, Ellis is well known for his technically virtuosic paintings. His dynamic representational technique uses pop culture iconography to explore various issues emerging from contemporary consumerism, often favoring the depiction of single objects rendered with near fetishistic focus.
A recent series of work was dedicated to exploring American history, more specifically, the American ideal of manifest destiny.
“In mid-nineteenth century America, the term ‘manifest destiny’ emerged as a romantic notion that was part ideal, part justification for the expansionist policies of that era as the government pushed to the West. Such a sweeping concept is fraught with contradictions, as is Ellis’ ‘Manifest Destiny (You’re Either On The Bus Or…?).’ He creates various interplays by piecing together different remnants of recognizable, yet disembodied typography that pull one’s gaze in and out of the adjacent imagery; the clash of naturalism versus technology and its inherent violence; and, a blurring of ideals, idealized representations, and reality.” – Ian Cofré
Previous series have investigated the death of print media and the damaged, transitory beauty of American popular culture, featuring consumer detritus such as torn magazines, cigarette lighters, knives, broken high-heeled shoes, and crashed cars. Following the tradition of Pop art masters. Recently, Ellis has been delving into explorations of new thematic content, and a wider range of media, including silk screens, wallpaper, light boxes and mixed media installations.
The colorful, satirical works communicate narrative with concision and economy, and frequently feature wordplay. Not immediately apparent, the messages are placed subtly throughout the canvases or hinted at in titles, compelling the viewer to look more closely in order to engage with the works on a deeper level.
Born in Washington D.C., Ellis was raised in various cities within the United States. In 1989, the artist moved to New York City to study at the prestigious School of Visual Arts, where he excelled in realism. Following his graduation, Ellis lived and worked in downtown New York, cultivating his aesthetic by immersing himself in the vibrant subculture of the city’s nightlife.
Ellis has exhibited extensively throughout the U.S. in addition to several international shows. These include exhibitions at the AC Institute, the Gershwin Hotel, the Studio @ 620, SoHo House, American Fine Arts and the Lexington Armory. Ellis’ works are held in private collections in Tokyo, Paris, Rome, Dublin, Seoul, Moscow, Bucarest, Singapore, Norway, Abu Dhabi, Auckland (New Zealand), Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington DC, Miami, New York, Dallas, and Philadelphia. He is currently a painting instructor at the School of Visual Arts.