Sep 26, 2011

PROFILE | Mike Leavitt

Mike, Leavitt, Mark Ryden, Statues & Kitsch, Wood, 20 inches, 2007- 2009

My discovery of Mike Leavitt was a happy accident that occurred while researching another artist. An image of a camera made completely out of cardboard caught my attention and then continued to suck me in to his website. It was there I discovered Intuition Kitchen Productions (IKP), the one-man company where Leavitt  is CEO. At IKP you'll find a  variety of mediums such as sculpture, painting, performance, architecture and animation. It is Leavitt's boredom of "normal" art that has lead him to create art in such a number of ways and inspired his designs that range "between art and product and from ornate objects to curio kitsch."
This Jack-of-all-trades grew up in Seattle, Washington where his interest in art and sociology came from his parents who were involved in education and graphic design. After one year at the Pratt Institute of Art, Leavitt dropped out, but continued some sculpture courses at University of Washington. From then on Leavitt kept himself busy with numerous projects motivated by his exploration of consumerism  and mass production.

Leavitt's most well known project "Art Army" is a project that consists of 230+ handcrafted action figures ranging in subject from the most popular in contemporary art, such as Jackson Pollock,  to those more known by pop-culture, like Tupac Shakur. Since 2002 Leavitt has been trying to bridge the gap between pop-culture and art history through these sculptures, as well as creating a satire on consumer culture.
Action figures are a traditionally mass-marketed product. For many, these realistic toys represent a bittersweet mix of pungent nostalgia and corporate marketing. The format is one of several vehicles that have intoxicated children of recent generations with consumer culture at the earliest of stages of development. Since the 1950's, fine art has a lush history of satirizing consumer culture. The action figure medium is rarely used to effectively bridge the gap between commerce and fine art.

Jasper Johns, Art Army, Polymer clay, 11", 2011 

Barbara Kruger, Polymer Clay, 11", 2011

From my understanding, for an artist's work to be called "kitsch" would be the opposite of a kind compliment, but for Leavitt, that is what is inspiring him. Once again Leavitt's goal is to create a bridge, this time connecting fine art to living room art. He says, "I picture my work in living rooms, not museums. Art should have the coziness of an old family house." It is his views on fine art and mass consumerism that have pushed him towards making this curio kitsch art; in current times art is under-represented in the media, people receive their information from movies, music, and TV, for it is more relevant and cheaper to their lives. To have consumerism as the subject matter it will speak to a mainstream audience disinterested in fine art. 

Little Luke, Cut wood panel, Prismacolor markers, 4"x4", 2009

Mike Leavitt & Scott Musgrove, Glamour Cat, Polymer Clay and wood, 6", 2010

Not too long ago AOL posted an interview with Leavitt, one of his responses to an question really sums up his view and position on art, as well as gives his audience a better understanding of what his body of work represents and is trying to say. "Don't be so afraid of  "selling out."...The economy is one concern, but my bigger concern is how isolated art continues to be from the rest of society."

-Courtney Rodrigues

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