Memphian Travis Carrier received a bachelor of fine arts degree from the Rhode Island School of Design two years ago. Now he's back in town temporarily, installing an exhibition of his recent paintings at Marshall Arts.
Sharing the space is his friend and fellow graduate, Andy Pomykalski, also showing recent paintings. The exhibition, titled "Pretty Young Thing," will be displayed through April 13.
"Pretty Young Thing"?
"We thought a lot about the exhibition name," said Carrier, cleaning up the walls at Marshall Arts on Tuesday. "It was hard to come up with something that worked for us together and had the associations we wanted. We chose the title of this Michael Jackson song because we're young, sort of" — each is 24 — "and the art we make is young."
Carrier and Pomykalski share studio space in Brooklyn, an important association for young artists, "because it's helpful to have someone to bounce ideas off. We've been having this conversation going for a year and a half, not just between us but between the work. It all flows together."
That work is figurative in nature but not absolutely realistic, a harkening to interior states manifested in dream-like, almost allegorical form.
"I see the work as psychological narrative," Carrier said. "There are symbolic aspects. There's like some kind of new romance with the materials and subject matter. The figures combine with some sort of realism but keeping it open for exploration."
The results are cryptic, ambiguous yet evocative, as in Carrier's painting "Under Debauched Skies," in which a deep blue river separates two banks, on one of which, in the distance, a ghostly figure emerges from a tomb, while closer to the viewer, a couple sitting on the ground embrace and a standing women appears to eat from a platter; between them lies a monumental marble head, perhaps fallen from or knocked from a piece of Classical sculpture. The sense of dread and repressed eroticism is palpable.
Did Carrier's teachers at Rhode Island School of Design encourage him in this direction?
"They definitely in a strange kind of way encouraged me," said Carrier, "well, maybe it's did not discourage me, but at the same time, many of them were commuting from New York, so they were heavily involved in the art world."
Carrier supports himself by bartending and by working in theater production in Manhattan's East Village, doing carpentry. The important aspect of his life, he said, is the work and staying in the studio as much as possible, though he and Pomykalski also trek to galleries as much as possible. He's not looking for a gallery yet.
"It's not time. I want to get my work done and out there, but I don't want to rush it."
For readers who see Carrier's name and feel a flash of recognition and start to say, "Oh, is his mother — ?"
The answer is yes, Travis Carrier's mother is Karen Blockman Carrier, well-known local caterer and restaurant owner: Another Roadside Attraction, Beauty Shop, Do Sushi, Mollie Fontaine's and Automatic Slim's until she sold it in 2008.
The suggestion that his mother is a larger-than-life character brings a laugh.
"Well, there is that. She supported my work, but she never pushed me in any direction. But I guess because of that, her energy and dynamism, I mainly kept out of her way."
Travis Carrier and Andy Pomykalski, 'Pretty Young Thing'
At Marshall Arts, 639 Marshall, through April 15. Opening reception tonight, 6 to 9. Call (901) 522-9483.