Joshua Liner Gallery is pleased to present Curious Myths, an exhibition of new paintings by New York artist Travis Louie. This is Louie’s first solo show with the gallery.
Travis Louie’s acrylic-on-panel paintings are whimsical portraits of bizarre beings, most of them inspired by a youthful fascination with “Atomic Age” sci-fi and horror movies, circus sideshows, and Vaudeville magic acts. Richly rendered in black and white with fine shading, the work is also influenced by the lighting and atmosphere of German Expressionist and Film Noir motion pictures.
With Curious Myths, a suite of 15 new, small- to medium-sized works, Louie has directed his lively journal practice of tiny drawings and narrative vignettes toward the creation of a cohesive, imaginary world styled with Victorian and Edwardian effects. This fictive zone is both cozy and creepy, inhabited by human oddities, mythical beings, and otherworldly characters that have seemingly posed for formal portraits to mark both their existence and place in society. Each image/character is uniquely loaded with ungainly charm and ample backstory. The underlying thread connecting the characters is the unusual circumstances that shape them and how they’ve lived.
For example, from his journal entries the artist sets the scene for The Myth of Floaters: “There are many misconceptions about floaters. A popular myth is that they levitate over people and sprinkle seeds that sprout into small herbs on the tops of heads with receding hairlines,” depicted vividly in the painting. As for Phineas G. Gruffin, a one-eyed goat in double-breasted coat, Louie writes, “He was first discovered on a foggy field in the Scottish countryside. He was disguised as a sheep herder singing awful songs to cover up the sound of his shoveling for ‘skumpers,’ furry underground dwellers who are part potato and part vole.”
Elsewhere, “a large Krampus has turned himself in for child-juggling” in Krampus Mugshot, offering frontal and profile views of the goofy beast with fanged underbite. In other works, a man is cursed by a goat, an engine driver can’t stop vibrating in his sleep, and another figure overcomes his phobia of spiders… all told with Louie’s knack for evoking narrative through the visual. To achieve the dramatic mood in his paintings, Louie works in a strict palette of black and white or limited color on plate-finish illustration board or finely sanded and primed wood panels.
Born in 1968 in Queens, NY, Travis Louie received a BFA from Pratt Institute and currently lives and works in Red Hook, New York. Selected solo exhibitions include: Strange Grooming Habits, Copro Nason Gallery, Santa Monica, CA (2009) and Unusual Neighbors, Fuse Gallery, New York (2008). Group exhibitions include: Kokeshi, Japanese American National Museum, Los Angeles (2009); World on Fire (curated by will.i.am), Pacific Electric Lofts, Los Angeles (2009); The New Mythology, Dorothy Circus Gallery, Rome (2008); and Hard Left, Merry Karnowsky Gallery, Berlin (2008).
Sylvia Ji ‘Las Adelitas’ and Travis Louie ‘Curious Myths’ Opening Photos (July 16, 2010)