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Illustrator Travis Lampe: ‘Small Time Buffoonist’ cover

Illustrator Travis Lampe: ‘Small Time Buffoonist’

“What is the meaning of art?” asks illustrator Travis Lampe. “Philosophers have wrestled with this question since time immemorial. Thank goodness, the wait is finally over.”

Discover the meaning of art once and for all with a trip to Travis’ latest solo show, Small Time Buffoonist, on view at Los Angeles gallery Corey Helford through May 11, 2024. Featuring new acrylic paintings and sculptures, Small Time Buffoonist follows Travis’ 2022 exhibition at Corey Helford, All Signs Point to No.

“Each piece [in Small Time Buffonist]—whether it features a chain-smoking bird, a pathetically drunken egg man, or the quotidian trials of hell-bat motherhood—speaks directly to the human condition,” says Travis. Leaning into gloom and doom, the Chicago-based artist resigns himself to whatever whims the fates have in store. Taking an absurdist approach, Travis infuses his work with plenty of dark humor, creating tragicomic scenes inspired by old-timey cartoons of the 1920s and ’30s. While the cartoons bring buoyancy to his work, they also reference pre-Hays code animation, which was frequently scandalous, dark, and violent. From 1934 – 1968 the code censored profanity, suggestive nudity, graphic violence, sexual persuasion, and rape.

Now on view at Corey Helford Gallery, Travis Lampe’s latest exhibition features new paintings and sculptures in the illustrator’s iconic old-timey style.
‘The Timber Contagion’

Inspired by the likes of Betty Boop, Steamboat Willy, and Dr. Suess, Travis describes his style as "a mish-mosh of those old-timey influences with some Duccio-inspired mountains and the inevitable light-switch nose.” In a nod to the Golden Age of animation, Travis’ work incorporates elements of slapstick humor and “rubber hose limbs,” a stylistic choice that jumps from cute to creepy in a heartbeat.

Influenced by fortune-telling, mystical divination, and a healthy dose of pessimism, Travis’ topsy-turvy works are just as wry as his opinions on the meaning of art. “You’ll see yourself in this show,” he insists. “It’ll be as if you were gazing at a reflection of yourself but looking into a mirror. So, like, a three-way reflection? It’s hard to explain.”

Small Time Buffonist runs through May 11, 2024, at Corey Helford Gallery alongside Okuda San Miguel’s Kisses Between Universes. For information, please visit their website here.

“What is the meaning of art? Philosophers have wrestled with this question since time immemorial. Thank goodness, the wait is finally over.” — Travis Lampe

‘Phoning It In’
‘Adventure Crew Buddies’
‘Infernal Weenie Bats’
‘Reginald Dumpty’
‘The Eternal Dingus’
Now on view at Corey Helford Gallery, Travis Lampe’s latest exhibition features new paintings and sculptures in the illustrator’s iconic old-timey style.
‘Picnic Ruiner’
Now on view at Corey Helford Gallery, Travis Lampe’s latest exhibition features new paintings and sculptures in the illustrator’s iconic old-timey style.
‘Yeti Love Ritual’

Travis Lampe: Instagram | Twitter | Purchase Work

All photos published with permission of the artist(s).

Want to be featured on NOT REAL ART? Email editor@notrealart.com with a short introduction and a link to your online portfolio or three images of your work.

Morgan  Laurens 

Morgan Laurens (she/her/hers) is NOT REAL ART’s editor in chief. Morgan is an arts writer from the Midwest who enjoys saying “excuse me” when no actual pardon is needed. She specializes in grant writing and narrative-based storytelling for mission-driven artists and arts organizations. With a background in printmaking, pop culture, and classic literature, Morgan believes a girl’s best friend is the pile of books on her bedside table.

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