Travis LaMothe and the Uncanny Domestic

"Phenolic Birch Chair," 2013 (all photos courtesy of the artist)

“Phenolic Birch Chair,” 2013 (all photos courtesy of the artist)

WhoTravis LaMothe

Where: Travis is a traveling man. He lives and works in Dallas, but travels to NYC for exhibitions and to visit friends in Bushwick. What: From hand-crafted furniture to minimalist paintings, Travis borders the fine-line between product and artwork. A master of mediums, Travis chooses materials as ideas transform into full-force projects. This mixed-media artist does not shy from unconventional materials either, as he often works with utilized inkjet prints, steel furniture, soap, cotton clothing, and drywall compound. He creates paintings and sculptures and all things in between, but one theme continually emerges from his art—his interest in what defines a ‘domestic’ space.

"Dick Joke," mixed media, 2014

“Dick Joke,” mixed media, 2014

TravisLamothe_dick-joke-500x750

“Dick Joke,” detail, mixed media, 2014

Where you’ve seen him: His recent exhibition at Bushwick Cooperative showcased a wide variety of his work to date, including Shock AbsorbersDick JokeBirch Chair, and AND/OR Index. In explaining his Dick Joke series:

“A dick joke, as a category for a widespread low-brow humor, is set into a delicate polka-dot pattern on a crisp dress shirt.  From over 5 feet away, it blends in with a distinct fashion—one that might be at odds with its language. I’m also interested in the way “dick joke” is a judgment—that it seeks to acknowledge the presence of humor without itself divulging it. In the end, it’s still funny, but we’re left looking for the joke itself.”

If you experienced wanderlust and found yourself in the Dallas area this past year, you may have seen his recent exhibitions at contemporary art spaces The Reading Room and RE Gallery.

"AND/OR Index," mixed media, 2013

“AND/OR Index,” mixed media, 2013

Lamonthe_AND_OR_INDEX_2-500x332

“AND/OR Index,” detail, mixed media, 2013

Why we’re into it: Is it art? Is it a commodity? Can I purchase Dick Joke but actually wear it? The ever-vanishing distinction between ‘art’ and ‘commerce’ is a heated topic in the art market (Jeff Koons anyone?). Further blurring this line, however, does not denigrate the pensive craftsmanship that goes into fulfilling a more metaphysical idea behind art creation and mass production. Travis explains:

 “Both words and objects meet the same end when paired with intent. What intent have objects constructed for themselves, and how do those meet the intentions we push upon them?”

For Travis, art is beyond the static object that one places as décor in a vaulted foyer. The question becomes whether art can go full circle, acknowledge its status as a ‘value-less product’ while maintaining its relationship to both those products out there in the world people use, and art itself. Art dressed as commodities, acknowledging its potential use-value, disguised as art. You cannot play around with Jeff Koon’s “Balloon Dog,” but you can sit in “Birch Chair,” and that makes all the difference.

Follow me on twitter @danileekay

"Birch Chair," mixed media, 2014

“Birch Chair,” mixed media, 2014

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4 comments

  1. Denne · July 6, 2014

    I love the shirt and would wear it on Saturday nights!

  2. ellipsisartcollective · July 11, 2014

    How usable art can make themselves into non-staitc objects is very interesting to me. But with birch chair… since the rest of the objects/products shown were presented in odd fashions they ripped me from reading them as a simple objects. Birch Chair didn’t resist/change its usage to make me notice it that way. Im curious if birch chairs interpretation through Travis’s eyes is only viable because of the other works surrounding it or the gallery setting? Is their anything different about the “Birch Chair” that affects the viewer even if they accidentally sit on it? Does being an art object so well hidden to the physical viewer change anything about their perception compared the theories potency when written out in this article? If birch chair is simply a chair/product in every way then is it fair to leave the average passer by so conceptually starved if they have not learned the proper theorems?

    • Becoming Middlebrow · July 12, 2014

      Interesting insight. Some of Travis’s work is more blatant to art. For example his series AND/OR Index. Some of his work coincides with more design, with an obvious physical use-value, like his “Dick Joke” shirt and “Birch Chair.” Sure, you can wear the shirt and sit in the chair, but all foils back to the artist’s intent when it comes to blurring the line between art and commerce. As an symbolic marker one can remember Marcel Duchamp’s “Fountain.” Now this readymade is a bit more alternative when it comes to the everyday because it was placed upside down, but the joke stands that it is a useful object if you wanted it to be. More the point, a viewer having a historical knowledge of Commodity Criticism is not the point because the physical space itself–the gallery–lends the atmosphere of art object over product. Sure people can sit in Birch Chair, but the chair is not for sale at Herman Miller, its for sale at a gallery.

      • ellipsisartcollective · August 22, 2014

        I think your last sentence makes your point best. Thanks. Where art is situated was slightly understated for me till now…

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