A week before his solo show "Sweet" at Crosstown Arts, Brantley Ellzey's studio looks like a place where adults might gather to play some live-action version of the Candy Land board game. There's an enormous donut in the middle of the room, covered in gigantic sprinkles. A paper and plexiglass valentine is being prepped to hang. Enormous fudge-drizzled Pirouline wafers peek out from behind a glass pane. A handmade honeycomb shows off its golden, beaded treasure.
"I wanted to get back to basics," Ellzey says, sorting through a stack of picture books he's kept since he was a toddler growing up in rural Louisiana. He runs his fingers across colorful images and passages from fairy stories that conjure visceral childhood memories that remind him of how easy it is to tumble down a well of cynicism and snark. He's struck by the notion that, as a description, "sweet" is almost always a kind of backhanded compliment these days, if it's any kind of compliment at all.
Ellzey's architectural collage occupies its own special corner of the pop-art universe. He doesn't paint or sculpt in any traditional way. Tight, precisely rolled magazine pages are his preferred medium, and he deploys them in numbers that boggle the mind. This time around he's using construction paper, like he used in kindergarten, and colored copy paper right off the shelf of his neighborhood office supply. Basics.
"Some pieces are more abstract than others," Ellzey says, flipping through framed works that look like fruit-flavored candy canes made from copy paper and zip ties.
"Over the past two years, I've been doing a lot of commissions, and there's a real back and forth about those pieces. The clients give me the materials, usually."
Given the opportunity to show a body of his own work at Crosstown Arts, Ellzey chose to step away from his complicated, information-filled comfort zone and make visual confections that helped the artist escape from bad news and political noise and explore the essentials of his own peculiar craft. Sweet.
"Brantley Ellzey: Sweet" at crosstown arts. opening reception friday, october 7th, 6-9 p.m. artist talk: thursday, october 27th, 6 p.m. Through November 5th.