Travis Louie was born in Queens, New York, in the area near the site of the 1964 World’s Fair. He currently lives and works in Red Hook, in New York. He spent his early childhood making drawings and watching “Atomic Age” Sci-Fi and Horror movies, while every Saturday afternoon he used to go to the local comics shop and in noon matinee Saturdays at the RKO Keith’s cinema.
He attended the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York where he graduated in 1990 with a BFA in Communication Design, and the intent of pursuing a freelance illustration career. The lighting and typical atmosphere of German Expressionist and Film Noir mostly influence the visual style of his work. Films from directors like F.W. Murnau, Fritz Lang, Orson Welles, Robert Siodmak, Robert Aldrich, Jacque Tourneur, and cinematographer, Greg Toland, had a great effect on his paintings’ look.
Louie has created his own imaginary world grounded in Victorian and Edwardian times and inhabited by human oddities, mythical beings, and otherworldly, grotesque characters who appear to have requested their formal portraits to state their existence and place in society and history. Those black and white portraits catch the characters while posing with their buttoned waistcoat, dazed and ironic gazes, facing us proudly and nobly in their state of isolation, while absurdity submerges them. By using inventive techniques of painting with acrylic washing and simple textures on smooth boards, with his exquisite signature touch he has created tridimensional portraits from an alternative universe that seemingly may or may not have existed.
Louie’s art talks about the artist’s fascination with human oddities, circus sideshows, Victorian portraits, and things otherworldly, all blended together to bring to life the characters and the stories he dreams about. His dusty, vintage imaginaries and their dramatic mood come from the use of black and white acrylic colours over tight graphite drawings on smooth grounds; those materials give shape to dreamy scenarios made of magic, dusty attics and dark fairytales to be read in the silence of a dimly lit room. Louie’s artworks are time machines that leave the body into reality, but carry the soul away to experience a remote adventure both funny and moving.
Those portrayed by Louie are ghosts, photorealistic hybrids, unimaginable creatures so far from our reality, yet so concerned to it, as the artist states: “I think the human race is full of misunderstandings based on people holding too close to their own cultures and being unable to embrace the idea that people can believe in other things and still get along in a reasonable sort of way”. Diversity and bizarre in Louie’s work are key principles that describe the artist profound discourse and cultural references, they are also his veiled commentary on the immigrant experience in the 19th century.
Travis Louie’s art has been featured in many publications by Hi Fructose Magazine, Juxtapoz, Bizarre Magazine, Rue Morgue, Hey! Magazine, Art Quarter, The Art of Sketch Theatre and has been exhibited all over the world in galleries and museums. Among his great exhibitions there are: his participation in “Art from the New World” at the Bristol City Museum, “Pop Surrealism”, held at the Museum of Visual Arts Palazzo Collicola in Spoleto, Italy, “Turn the Page” at The Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), “Travis Louie Views from Netherworld”, KP Projects, Los Angeles, “Watch the Skies”, KP Projects, Los Angeles, “The Moleskine Project VI”, “Spoke Art”, San Francisco.