Travis Louie, Kris Kuksi & Mercedes Helnwein
The Shooting Gallery
October 11, 2008
Review and Photos by Joshua "Creep" G.
Better than: Stepping in crap on Van Ness, and trying to figure out if it's from a dog or a human...
It takes a very special show to make me want to hop on Golden Gate Transit and sit for two solid hours surrounded by a host of hacking and coughing passengers. All I could think of was 28 Days Later, and if an infection were to break out, how would I escape? The mental image of the pieces that I would be able to browse at this Shooting Gallery show, however, was enough to keep me planted in that seat wielding my trusty camera bag in the event I'd need to use it as a bludgeoning instrument.
Last night's show featured works from only three artists, but mind you, these are three of the most exciting artists one can see in a single setting. Mercedes Helnwein with her graphite drawings, Travis Louie with his amazing acrylic portraits, and Kris Kuksi with his mind-blowing 3D works? Yes, it would be worth the ride, maybe even coming down with a case of the sniffles.
I have seen the paintings of Travis Louie in person before, but honestly, he creates the kind of art that is always a blast to look at -- so I prepared to once again be floored.
When you see his work online, it's hard to imagine that each is a hand-painted acrylic creation. His paintings look so perfect and smooth, and even in person you really have to strain to see any type of recognizable brush mark. The frames he uses are quite often antique frames, and he then has to commission a convex glass pane for each: just one more addition that makes his art so special.
Talking to him at the show, he told me that he keeps a sketchbook and jots down background stories that are used to create each one of these characters. He also said that his pieces are kind of like family portraits. He apparently doesn't have images of his own family from the very beginning: They "[didn't want] pictures taken, as if it would take their soul." So these works are inspired by that gap, and his influences are Victorian Imagery, circus oddities and so on.
The right side of the gallery was filled with huge drawings from Mercedes Helnwein, daughter of renowned painter and art provocateur Gottfried Helnwein. She was born in Austria, lives in Ireland and now makes Los Angeles her second home. Each of the pieces were graphite on paper, mounted in the frame so one can see all corners.
Mercedes proudly shows the energetic loose marks, smudges and nicks, something most artists would choose to hide. My friend Tony, who came with me to the show, really enjoyed this aspect, as it shows the "working process of the artist." I really loved the contrast she is able to create in each work, and the variety of marks, whether its a random scribble or controlled cross-hatch. She clearly understands proportion, and must be a people watcher, as each one of the pieces on display held a great amount of emotion.
No matter how amazing the works of Mercedes and Travis were, I spent the most time gazing the works of Kris Kuksi. It was the first time I was able to see his works in person, and he has long been a favorite of mine. There were three pieces of his set in the left corner of the room, and there was also blue tape on the ground to mark were you should stand back from said works. Of course, barely anyone paid attention to this, so there was someone there to remind you to back off the extremely delicate artwork. It was hard, really, there are so many details to each of the sculptures. I found myself hyperventilating at one point when I realized I would never be able to capture each aspect with the camera.
I was able to talk with Kuksi for a bit as well. I know he is a very talented painter, but I wondered what got him started with this style. He said that he had some of these pieces laying around, and began assembling them together. Each of the little figures that make up these works are collected. That alone blows me away. The idea that these pieces come from a myriad of places and he has been able to put them together as if they were designed for one another is amazing. I asked him what the most unique response he has gotten to his work was, and he said that one person exclaimed "these look like Google Earth." I guess I kind of see what the observer meant, however it's a guarantee that these three sculptures are cooler than Google Earth will ever be.
Personal Bias: I am a huge fan of Kris Kuksi and Travis Louie, and now apparently Mercedes Helnwein.
Random Detail: The Mike Giant show was next door at White Walls, but playing live drums and many years of doing live sound for junky metal bands had given me a good dose of tinnitus, so I just peeked at the show. It looked great from what I could see.
By the way: You can grab prints of Travis Louie's work at Circus Posterus, as well as a limited Pressure Printing release at Hifructose.com. He also said that prints might be made from some of the pieces in this show.