On July 11th, a group art exhibition entitled "Monster?," curated by the wise and wonderful Travis Louie, will open at Copro Gallery. It will include work by more than 50 amazing artists, including Ron English, Femke Hiemstra, Jessica Joslin, Audrey Kawasaki, Tessar Lo, Martin Wittfooth, Chet Zar, Amanda Visell, Ana Bagayan, Annie Owens, Attaboy, Bill Basso, Bob Eggleton, Brandt Peters, Brian Despain, Brom, Chris Ryniak, Dan Quintana, Ekundayo, Dave Chung, Dave DeVries, Davey Wong, Deseo, Dice Tsutsumi, Donato Giancola, Francesco LoCastro, Fred Harper, Heidi Taillefer, Isabel Samaras, James Zar, Jason D'Aquino, Kirk Reinert, Kris Kuksi, Kris Lewis, Lola, Mari Inukai, Mark Elliott, Mark Texiera, Mark Garro, Mike Lee, Mike Knapp, Miles Teves, Molly Crabapple, Nash Dunnigan, Nouar, Peter Nguyen, Robert Mackenzie, Stephen Hickman, Steve Ellis, Steve Price, Vince Natale, Tim O'Brien, Tristan Elwell, Vincent DiFate, Willie Real, Vincent Nguyen and Xiaoqing Ding.
Mark Garro "Allure"
Though he's been painting like a madman for his upcoming solo show at Roq la Rue – not to mention Ron English's Godfather-themed "Family Tradition" show, Gallery 1988's "Crazy 4 Cult: 3-D" show and the Japanese American National Museum's "Kokeshi: From Folk Art to Art Toy" exhibition – Travis was kind enough to take some time to answer a few questions about this show and what he is looking for as a curator.
Robert MacKenzie "Noodles and Romance"
Erratic Phenomena: One of the reasons you wanted to curate this exhibition was to showcase some amazing illustrators you know who haven't yet infiltrated our neighborhood of the gallery circuit. Tell me a little about why you selected this particular group of artists, and how you see your role and responsibilities as curator.
Travis Louie: I picked these artists mostly because I thought their work needed to be seen. Many of the artists in this show are production artists whose work is never really appreciated on a singular level. We usually see their names in the closing credits of a motion picture, but don't really know what they actually did for the film we were watching – or as illustrators, we see their work as book cover illustrations, or in magazines like Rolling Stone, Time, Playboy, etc., but the beauty of what they've done is taken for granted.
I would love to see artists like Nash Dunnigan, Vincent Nguyen, Mike Knapp from Blue Sky or Dice Tsutsumi from Pixar get some love from this gallery scene. They are creative minds with great drawing and painting skills. I did put some veterans from the scene in the show as well, like Audrey Kawasaki, Isabel Samaras and Ron English.
Greg Couch "The Thing With Feathers"
EP: Every day, more and more artists and galleries are jumping on the lowbrow/pop surrealism bandwagon. Which trends would you like to encourage in this burgeoning movement? Are there tendencies that we should guard against, as well?
TL: I'd like to see more creativity. I think a lot of the new artists fall short conceptually. Also, I see a lot of copying of other artists' visual styles and elements coupled with mediocre painting technique. The galleries should stop promoting secondhand artists who are obviously trying to blend in with a current trend (big-eyed girls, anime, robots, faux-graffiti, etc.).
A gallery owner (I won't say who) tried to tell me how great someone's brushwork was, and he really had no clue about what constitutes "good brushwork." Folks, there is a significant difference between having a strong style that exaggerates anatomy, and exaggeration because of a lack of anatomical knowledge. I'm not saying I'd like to see all things painted realistically or naturalistically, but I would prefer that the artists know how to draw something, at least. I've seen so many artists whose drawing was so bad I can't believe they got shows.
That said, a well-rendered piece can be kind of stale-looking too. It is not just how well you paint, but what you paint. We should ask ourselves: Stylistically and thematically, what are the common denominators in this scene? Is it the galleries who decide such things, and artists that just happen to show in them are lumped together? Is there a definite sociopolitical ideology that we are all following or expressing? I don't think so. What defines this scene? I can definitely tell you there is no connection stylistically between Lori Earley and Mars-1, or Craola and Natalia Fabia, or Amy Sol and myself – yet all are considered part of this scene.
EP: What qualities do you look for in an emerging artist with potential?
TL: Ideally I would want to see artists that bring not only a uniqueness or freshness to their vision, but also the feeling that their work could expand beyond just being a gimmick. There is a confusion about what some artists perceive to be a trend or style in this scene, which is actually nothing more than being derivative or copying what others have done.
I like to see some skill and technique married to great concepts and vision. I like whimsical work, a sense of humor – it's too easy to be political or to be posturing. I enjoy artists who understand what they are referencing when they do a homage to work from another era, or are influenced by what they saw as children.
EP: Thank you, Travis!
"Monster?" opens at Copro Gallery in Santa Monica on July 11th. Travis Louie and many of his talented friends will be in attendance.
Tim O'Brien "Chuck Brown"