David Ellis begins every day with a quick sketch. So that it does not become a monotonous activity, some days he purposely neglects to bring his sketchpad and drawing instruments to the studio in order to rely instead on borrowed pens or scraps of paper to complete his morning ritual. He jogs his creativity this way. No matter the tools they are created with, however, these sketches represent quiet moments of clarity and calm for Ellis, the only time of day he has to himself.
Loud would much better describe the majority of Ellis’ life. Born in Canada in 1967, Ellis became a part of New York’s East Village music scene in the ‘80s, perhaps most notably as the lead singer of the rock band Nitromusk. In addition to vocals, Ellis plays guitar and drums and has worked with numerous bands and producers. Since the 90s, Ellis has found success as a sound studio designer and builder, including the noted Lodge Mastering Studio in Greenwich Village.
Ellis began getting noticed for his art in the ‘90s as well, exhibiting paintings and photographs at Gallery Stendhal in Soho. More recently he has shown his art at Greenpoint Gallery and Red Hook’s Brooklyn Waterfront Artists Coalition (BWAC), the largest artist-run organization in Brooklyn.
Ellis currently works out of a sizable artists’ complex in DUMBO. Inside, down a small flight of stairs, beyond various music makers who are his neighbors, Ellis’ basement studio is divided into two parts. Upon entering, one will see a long wall to the left covered with colorful paintings in various stages of completion and a desk equally covered in papers at the back. Tucked away to the right, is a smaller room filled with various musical implements, including a set of drums Ellis plays sometimes between painting sessions.
In July, the DUMBO complex was tragically flooded, leaving Ellis and his neighbors to pick up the pieces of their life’s work. A panel of wooden floorboard that he salvaged from the waters serves as the canvas for the title piece of Ellis’ show, Please Fuck Me, currently on view at World Money Gallery.
Working primarily in oil and acrylic, Ellis’ paintings are sexually provocative pieces rooted in pop culture. In the title piece, the words “Please Fuck Me” are spelled out in the dissimilar, individually cropped lettering popularly used to disguise the identity of the writer. However, for the viewer, the words are easily attributed to the starry-eyed cartoon man—in bowtie and ball cap—painted at the bottom right corner of the piece. He is outlined in white against a patch of black paint. At the top left corner of the piece is a large close-up of a freckle-faced female character—outlined in black against a patch of white paint—wearing a 60s style hairdo finished with a large plaid hairbow. Her lips are puckered up for a kiss. Between them is a jagged-edged space of untreated wood, which appears to be the result of ripping off a thin layer of board across the center of the piece. A distance is created between them, while possibly playing on the double meaning of the word wood.
Although together the two character patches of Please Fuck Me exhibit a yin-yang quality, which might imply they somehow belong together, the young woman, looking upward, seems to wait for another suitor. The edges of the patches do not match up. The man appears to exist in the shadows, while the woman is lit up for all to see. While the wholesome characters wear a smooch and a smile, the piece carries an indecent, creepy desperation. Also springing to mind, however, is the commonly accepted scenario of a man in a darkened movie theater fantasizing about bagging the star on screen—who has no idea who he is.
Pac-Man’s Cock developed out of one of Ellis’ morning sketches. Upon first glance, the piece may appear domineeringly masculine. Pac-Man—painted in his customary bright yellow hue—dons a black bowler hat and a giant erection. Just below him, however, the word “cock” is ironically swirled in soft pink in a Coca-Cola-like font. And the positioning of his member—just inches ahead of his wide-open mouth—puts it directly on course to be eaten; a self-defeating way to score. Both self-destruction and masturbation are evoked.
While jarring at times, Ellis’ paintings are not meant to provoke, so much as to spark a dialogue among viewers. Both playful and dark, via bits of familiar pop culture, Please Fuck Me explores various concepts and circumstances that collide within sex and sexuality.
Please Fuck Me
October 13 – November 11
World Money Gallery
41 Montrose Ave.
Brooklyn, NY 11206