Travis Louie has been hard at work with two shows opening this month – the first being at Merry Karnowsky Berlin (previewed) and the second being at the FUSE Gallery in New York. Fortunately, he still had some time to sit down and answer some questions for us and send us some preview pics for his “Strange Neighbors” show opening on November 29th at FUSE gallery. Check after the jump for the images as well as our interview where he talks about future collaborations, the theme for this show, his creative process, and more…
Arrested Motion (AM): Can you tell us a little about your theme for this show?
Travis Louie (TL): The theme for the show at FUSE is based on the mysterious occupants of a fictitious apartment building on Mulberry Street. I used to visit my grandmother who lived on Mulberry St. in Little Italy very often as a child and remembered the strange people who lived on the different floors in the apartment building she lived in. It was a very noisy building and I often imagined what the people making those strange noises looked like behind those closed doors. It didn’t help that the building super was kind of an odd guy too. Half the time, I couldn’t understand him. He was a sculptor and he worked in the basement. You could hear his electric sanding and drilling tools at all hours of the day. This gave me the idea behind the paintings for the show; a building full of unusual neighbors and misfits.
AM: We notice that you like to include little stories with each of your paintings. Can you explain a little about your process and how your painting influences your writing or vice versa?
TL: I usually write my stories first and I keep a journal with me at all times. It’s become kind of a ritual for me to write a little every day. I go through my journals and imagine what pictures can be made from the writings and what cohesive elements would make for a series of paintings. I try to look at the overview of where my work is going . . . not to be too calculating, but it helps me pick where I want to go with this. The next step in my process is to make many little drawings. After refining the best ones . . . a final drawing or drawings are put together for the paintings. I then prep my boards and transfer the images . . . I still make changes . . . but they are usually not huge ones at this stage. Painting is more like a refining process for me. All the creativity takes place well before the actual painting is even started.
AM: You are known for painting these strange yet wonderful portraits of creatures that look almost photorealistic. Any plans for some “environment” works in the future or is that not your thing?
TL: I intend on making more complicated compositions in the coming year. I just need to arrange for enough time to complete them . . . I don’t have too many shows planned for next year. These will have more backgrounds and more figures in them. Subjects may involve court scenes or formal portraits of entire families. I always imagined making a painting of a senate hearing with all my unusual characters as the participants.
AM: From personal experience/conversations with you as well as from talking to other artists, it’s clear that you are an artist “advocate” as well as a friend to the collector community. How important is this to you and what can you tell us about that?
TL: It’s been a great experience navigating this arm of the art world. I’ve made a lot of new friends with artists and collectors. We all seem to be running into each other from opening to opening, on art collector forums and message boards. We all have an understanding of how difficult this business can be. That said, I see the artists . . . well . . . like a kind of brotherhood . . . and if it is possible, we should help each other out. I think it is in everyone’s best interest to help the younger artists who come up . . . educating them on the pitfalls of this scene, what certain galleries can do for you, why you don’t really need an agent . . . that sort of thing. This isn’t brain surgery what we do . . . we should look out for each other and I try not to take it for granted. I am very lucky to be making a living painting pictures and if i can help someone along with this great opportunity . . . I will.
AM: What shows & projects do you have coming up that you can share with us?
TL: After Art Basel in Miami, I will be curating a show at Copro Nason for July 2009 that will be mostly production and concept artists. I also have a larger solo show at Copro Nason in May. I have plans to collaborate with artists, Greg Simkins and Chet Zar on projects as well as a plan for something big with multiple artists . . . wish me luck. I’ll be working with Bob Self at Baby Tattooville on something as well . . . that’s all I’ll say for now.
AM: Thanks so much for taking time to talk to us Travis. We look forward to seeing what you have coming up at FUSE as well as 2009.