David Ellis: Broken Glass Everywhere
One can look all one wants at David Ellis’ art, but to really see it you need to listen. We can hear in his paintings, sculptures, assemblages and motion painting animations a sound and fury, rare grooves of fluid complexity, heavy jams and pop perfections, radical riffs and break beats, beautiful bridges and singular syncopations, audio accumulations and delirious dance tracks of ecstatic bliss and esoteric dreams. His is the vox populi of boom box poetics, a pure synaesthetic confection of art and music where the mind is led to wander along free-floating melodies and the booty shakes as if bidden by the irresistible rhythms of a transcendental turntable. The discrete music embedded here subsumes simple visual recognition, charting a cartography of sonic exploration as if the flatness of the picture plane offers a score by which we can swim through a deeper space of multidimensional harmonics and elastic sound waves. In some perpetual motion of cascades and crescendos, slyly coded samples and anthemic refrains unspool time and memory in a concert hall/recording studio/dance floor synergy of individual idiosyncrasies and collective recognition. We may not know all the words, but we still sing along.
The visual arts cannot transcribe the sound of music, but in Ellis’ alchemical craft we feel the convergence of these expressions into a mutant mongrel mix of sublime hybridity. Here his series of Flow paintings- inscribed as swirling patterns upon the billowing ambient sound clouds of tobacco stain bursts evoking his youth in America’s southern tobacco country- conjure the experiential dynamics of feeling these things somewhere beyond sound and vision, deep in the inner ear where the brain speaks to the heart and the feet move to the invisible. Sonic Landscapes, three in all set forth in this eclectic exhibition, map the colliding geometries of melodic disruption and phonic symmetry of composition as an architecture of the senses, and Ellis reprises his artifact record compendium Recollections with Wake, so named for the only LP visible in the collection as titled by the great Philadelphia Seventies Soul band Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes. It is, as all in this series a memory capsule of archetypal emotional resonance. Startling too is a visionary masterwork by David Ellis called Monument to the Sounds of Roland TR 808 Drum Machine, where the intangibility of the new digital paradigm finds a palpable form, making manifest the disembodied essence of electronic impulses in a spiritual iconography of transpersonal awakening. The beat goes on.
David Ellis’ pictorial musicology is a symphony of individual elements brought together in unison, and is never so much about the sparkling solos as it is about the community of players and audience, a more profound sense of togetherness far deeper than any virtuosity. It’s all about call and response, the chorus of togetherness assembled as a kind of infinite combo. It’s a highly social art of implicit political consequence, the voices melded in compound harmony, brought together as a collective commonality the way the sonically induced synth wave forms that make up the stripes of his suspended flag of gold leaf and charred wood constitute a different and wholly more suitable form of allegiance, what P Funk aptly called One Nation Under A Groove. And there it is, We People, bold and beautiful as a b-side gem, the face of the many reflected in the recognition of our forbearers, the citizens of Charlottesville, a city wracked by the violence of racial grievance, projected on the busts of Washington and Jefferson, like a hymn of infinite sorrow and gradual healing, a world of difference brought together in elegiac euphony. Like the high laughter of children on the playground and the low thumping of a deep bass line, the sound carries beyond its source, drifting far for those who are willing to listen across the silence- it may sound like world music but is the rather more the music of the world.