KP Projects is proud to present a solo exhibition of paintings and drawings by Travis Louie entitled Phantasmagoria. By unearthing unusual discoveries inspired by reported sightings of remarkable beings he read about as a child, Louie has become a purveyor of the fantastical, looking to mythology and storytelling to create remarkable characters from his deeply rich imagination.
Referencing theater and performance from the 18th and 19th Centuries, Louie’s mystical creations come to life much like the enlivened creatures that appeared on painted screens from the magic lantern and diorama technologies of that period. These partial movement effects, predating modern cinema, created a dreamlike state where the real and imagined blurred together.
With meticulous technique, Louie creates a similarly illusory effect with paint, using fine line and blending that parallels the immaculately glowing surface of a Daguerreotype portrait. “Mary ‘Calamity’ Jenkens”, becomes an actress and opera singer that left a bizarre string of accidents in her wake. “Slappy, the Wonder Cyclops”, comes to life as a clown with dreams of circus stardom who performs at the Metropolitan Opera House in 1907. “The Secret Life of Emily Stokes” reveals a Victorian Woman with a mermaid tail holding a conch filled with flowers. Every character reflects their captivating, and at times humorous, life story.
Among the many variations of Phantasmagoria as idiom, Travis Louie’s work speaks to one’s imagination and the artistic process of externalizing such fantasies in painted form. Gothic writer Edgar Allen Poe described it as a way to destabilize the boundary between the internal working of the mind and reality. Contemporary British writer Terry Breverton describes it as ‘the art of creating supernatural illusions, the gathering of phantoms and fantasies.” According to his 2011 book “Phantasmagoria” - “Some beliefs, places, people and animals are ‘magical’ and ‘mysterious’ in so many ways. To lose our sense of wonder at the diversity of life and how history has shaped us, is to lose sight of the purpose of life. This is a magical, exciting planet, which has always been full of wonder…”.
Travis Louie’s work is a celebration of these phantasms, all the while rendering the seams between the world we inhabit and the world of his imagination practically invisible.
Travis Louie was born in Queens, New York. His formative years were spent watching ‘Atomic Age’ sci-fi movies and sketching genre characters like Godzilla, King Kong, and a host of creatures from Ray Harryhausen movies. He graduated from the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, and has been exhibited across the continental United States and in select exhibitions in Germany, France, and Canada. Louie was most recently featured in Guillermo del Toro’s 2016 landmark show “Living with Monsters” at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Hi-Fructose 10th Anniversary traveling exhibition.