Travis Millard's "No Pressure" Opens To Say Goodbye.
When I heard the opening reception for Travis Millard‘s latest exhibition entitled "No Pressure" was happening during my last minute work trip to LA, I was beyond excited. In fact, I started planning my whole trip’s schedule around the opening just to make sure I could go. Let me explain why I was so stoked…
Mike Abu and I met Travis last summer when he invited us over to check out his space in Echo Park. As soon as I met him I immediately felt like I had a new best bud. He just has that effect on people. Here’s why:
First – He’s fucking hilarious. From what he showed me at his house, it seems as though he chooses projects to work on based on how much it will make he and all his friends laugh.
See also: Farts: A Spotters Guide (illustrations by Travis Millard, written by Cray S. Bower)
See also: Gamemasters prank call (check it out! It’s the video at the top of this article. Illustrations by Travis Millard, animation by Jim Dirschberger, phone call by Earles & Jensen)
Second – He’s totally down to talk about whatever topic is laid in front of him. He seems to somehow always have an inspired personal anecdote in his back pocket for any conversation. At times he reminds me of the way my grandfather might have been when he was young, reciting personal parables that will teach you things about life that you can’t learn in school.
This curious wisdom can also be found in Travis’ art. The daily routines and common place characters of every day life take form in his drawings and paintings. He sketches out small scenarios on paper that depict recurring characters that one might stumble upon while roaming the city or drunk at a family reunion. These characters are portrayed in their day to day’s – all of them just trying to deal with all the pains-in-the-ass that come with being alive.
My personal favorites are his characters known as Street Bros, who seem to constantly be going through a hell of a lot just to get high – most of the time off some weird household product or by eating some rotten gunk they find. The characters and scenery that Travis creates in his work traverses the enormous line between hideous and adorable. It’s as if R. Crumb and Walt Disney are forever making love inside of Travis’ brain and their offspring are born in the ink of Travis’ pen.
Travis’ also told me once that he uses art as a sort of therapy. This is something I have heard from lots of artists, but coming from Travis it’s particularly interesting to me. Sure, every artist’s work says something about them personally, but Travis’ art is literally trying to tell you the story of the entire world around him. This is something you can see very clearly when you place a lot of Travis’ images close together. Some images are despondent and messy, others are comical and full of nostalgia. View them all closely together and you are looking at Travis.
Opening Night of "No Pressure
I arrived a little late to This Los Angeles, a humble gallery on North Figueroa Street and was met by a crowd of people standing outside the venue smoking, laughing and hugging one another like they hadn’t seen each other in years. Already it was a stark difference from the Charming Baker opening that I had attended the night before. This was my kinda crowd. The first face I recognized was the one belonging to Mel Kadel, Travis’ long time love and another amazing artist I can’t seem to stop talking about. I sat next to Mel on a planter and we caught up for a bit. She seemed to have a constant line of fans and friends coming up to speak to her, so I kept our conversation short and wandered into the gallery space.
Immediately a pretty girl wearing glasses who seemed genuinely happy to be where she was handed me a beer – again a stark difference from the previous night’s event. I walked my beer around the walls of the gallery so I could take in the art before I fell too deep into conversation with anyone.
A lot of the pieces I had seen when I visited Travis’ house, but they felt different now that they were all hanging next to each other on a clean white wall. Paintings and drawings both big and small were teeming with all of the characters that Travis had invented during his time under the pseudonym Fudge Factory. They could be found hiding in collaborations he had done with Mel Kadel, envelops that he had doodled on while talking on the phone, and pieces of paper that looked like they had been ripped directly from his sketchbook. These smaller pieces were hung next to his larger pieces and acted as an extension of their frames.
Two small pieces in particular stood out to me. I had never seen the drawings or the character in them before. They were clean, like brand new tattoos, and featured a long bodied dude in shades with clumps of long red hair. Most of Travis’ characters seem to remain slightly ambiguous in their hair color and attire, but the man in these pictures was styled out with distinct clothing. In one of the drawings he was taller than trees, using a giant marker to scribble the words Dutch Giant on a dumpster. I figured Travis was branching out.
When I started looking, it didn’t take long to find Travis. He was planted directly in the center of the room while the rest of everyone orbited around him slowly, looking at his work piece by piece. His arms were crossed as he talked and stayed that way for most of the night. His body language never read as closed off or guarded though, the way my mother always told me it does when you cross your arms.
I guess some dudes just keep it so relaxed that it’s the only vibe they know how to give out.
I thought I’d give it a minute before bowling Travis over with songs of praise or a bunch of questions he had probably heard all night long. Instead, I mingled through the crowd and met a lot of really interesting people – many of whom looked identical to some of the characters in Travis’ art. One can’t help but wonder….
When I finally made my way to Travis he greeted me with a big hug and thanked me for coming. He seemed really excited about the turn out. "It’s such a great night. I’m so happy. I’m getting to see a out of really close, good friends…" He went on "I am really bad at the promotion part. Usually I’d try and send some emails and let people know about the show, but this time I completely just forgot to. All I did was post a couple of pictures on Instagram a couple days ago. When today came I was like ‘shit, I haven’t told anyone.’ I thought ‘This is going to be a total flop’ but it turned out awesome. I’m so happy with the way things turned out."
R.I.P. Justin Van Hoy
Travis and I talked and joked for a bit and then I asked him about his new red headed character I had seen hanging on the wall. He seemed excited to tell me about the two new pieces.
"That’s my good friend Justin Van Hoy who was a part owner of This Los Angeles. He past away recently." Travis explained. "He was such a good guy. Very supportive of me and the art scene and of all his friends, really. He loved connecting people with other people that he liked and was good at it ’cause he seemed to just know everyone. The three other owners of the gallery, Jeremy and Claire Weiss and Aaron Farley, are all professional photographers and are real busy. They all ran the gallery as a team, but Justin was the most dedicated to keeping it alive."
"Now that Justin is gone, the rest of the team has decided to close This Los Angeles. There just isn’t enough time to run it. So my show was going to be later, but got pushed up to this month. It’s going to be the last solo show in the gallery before they close in April. It’s sad, but I am glad and honored that I kinda get to close the show sorta."
"Anyways, I knew I wanted to draw some portraits of Justin to hang in the show to sorta remember him by or pay tribute to him or something like that, but had to hurry and get them done. I did them in a week or so. I just busted them out – they came together really quick. I like them both a lot. He was a really great guy."
It was my first time to This Los Angeles, but I was bummed. Later when I googled Justin Van Hoy and learned more about him I was even more bummed. Everything I read about Justin seemed to talk about what a great guy he was and how much he did for the artists he knew. He had collaborated with some of my favorite artists like Shepard Fairey and Todd Oldham, who both spoke with Justin on MTV’s House of Style about his book Milk & Honey that showcased California’s contemporary art scene. Artist Sage Vaughn referred to Justin as "a good luck charm". It sucks to think that this good luck charm and important piece of the California art scene is gone.
I said goodbye to Travis as two girls ran up to him carrying McDonalds. I immediately imagined what the scene would look like depicted in one of Travis’ drawings. I continued to walk around for the rest of the night morphing the world into objects and scenarios I would like to see Travis draw. Seeing the world like that makes it a lot more fun.
Photos By: Koury Angelo