In this exhibition, Mike Leavitt signals an art market shift. The Seattle artist accurately replicates in cardboard a nostalgic footlocker of shoes, from ladies pumps to 1980’s sneakers. Installed like a thrift shop, the cardboard shoes will be interspersed with Leavitt’s famous action figures, trading cards, Barack Obama pieces, woodcarvings, velvet paintings, and other small collectibles.Traditionally distasteful and modest objects consciously designed for commerce become appropriate in the art world.
Mike Leavitt participates in an art movement that is fast maturing – a melting together of designer toys, hand-made prints, tattoo parlors, skate shops, street art, and hand-made kitsch that is consuming the art market from the bottom, up. Between high art and a crumbling economy, Leavitt has found a common ground of inexpensive but technical works keenly tailored for broad appeal. Inspirations from woodshop, kitchen craft, and figurative representation energize his shoe replications. In his work, a cheap, disposable material comprises an expensive product, similar to the manufacture of boutique footwear. His cardboard shoes suggest commercial viability is now an urgent reality.
Mike Leavitt is Intuition Kitchen Productions – a one-man company pushing a variety of indefinable projects between conceptual art and lowbrow product and from intricate miniatures to industrial-grade objects. Leavitt’s most notable work is the “Art Army” series of one-off action figures depicting a range of historical subjects from Van Gogh to Tupac. The figures are also formatted as custom wedding cake toppers, now a lucrative side-project. Other projects include “Penny Places”, an ongoing series of “lucky” pennies found in the street, painted with tiny landscapes showing the exact location where the penny was found; “ArtCards”, hand-drawn trading cards of artists, sold in wrapped packs with a stale stick of gum; “Portable Homeless Shelters”, made of recycled-material and built and used in the Seattle area since 1999; and “Push Button Performer” which toured the Pacific Northwest from 1998 to 2003. Leavitt was a resident with the Dale Chihuly video team in 1997. His Barack Obama artwork, from a marsh-mellow peeps portrait to an elaborate action figure satire, toured with the “Manifest Hope” winner’s circle to a political event in Rome, Italy just before Election Day 2008. He has work in the collections of actress Geena Davis, Nike President Mark Parker, and can be found in notable book publications such as Dot Dot Dash: Designer Toys, Action Figures and Character Art by Gestalten press.