Stephen Ellis has shown his paintings in numerous galleries in the United and Europe since 1982. Ellis has been associated with a group of American artists, including Jonathan Lasker, Lydia Dona, Terry Winters, David Reed, Philip Taaffe and Christopher Wool, who, beginning in the late seventies, broke through the wall of self-referential formalism theorized by Clement Greenberg and returned abstraction to an engagement with the world.
Ellis has also written extensively about art for magazines including Parkett and Art and America, where he was an associate editor from 1989 through 1992. During the mid-eighties, while living in Cologne, Germany, Ellis wrote some of the earliest overviews in the American art press of the work of Gerhard Richter, Martin Kippenberger and Albert Oehlen. Most recently he has written about the paintings of Giorgio Morandi, Dan Walsh and Alan Uglow.
Since the early 1980s, Ellis has taught graduate and undergraduate courses including painting, drawing, mixed-media practices, color theory, contemporary issues and writing workshops at various art schools and universities including The Cooper Union, SVA, Parsons, The New York Academy of Art, New York University, Bard College and Harvard University.
Ellis's painting and graphic work is represented in public and private collections in the United States and Europe. He has been the recipient of awards from the New York Foundation for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters and the Joan Mitchell Foundation. Two of his paintings are included in Phaidon's recent history of contemporary painting, Painting Today by Tony Godfrey.