Soda Popular : Greg Mike Interview
Monday, April 26, 2010 by Corey Davis | 5 Comments; | Category: Art, Culture, Fashion, Illustration, Interview
Greg Mike is an artist who has mastered conflation of high and low art through his unique use pop culture imagery. Along with a majority of young artist today, he originally has a background in graffiti, but after studying studio art at FSU he has taken on fine art, graphic design, fashion, and commercial branding. Most infamously known for his Popstars and Cokeheads series, where he transformed an army of soda cans into chromatic characters and creatures, he says “I hope to finish 150 by the end of the summer and I don’t plan on stopping until I’m laying in the casket.” Last week I finally got a chance to talk with him about his inspirations, upcoming projects, and everyday life.
Greedmont Park: Its been awhile since a new unified art movement has emerged, such as the Minimalist and Pop Art movement of the 60′s. Do you sense anything like that coming soon?
Greg Mike: I think there is a clash and merge of movements right now. We saw it in music, we saw it in fashion and in now art. People are meshing techniques and movements; digital and hand painted, street art and graffiti. It within itself will create it’s own movement.
GP: If you had to name you style of art, what would you call it?
GM: I feel it’s classified as pop art. The bright colors, themes and techniques drawn from popular culture and the incorporation of the “soda pop can” seem to put it into the “pop art” category.
GP: What is your background in art?
GM: I started painting and drawing when I was 8. That lead to oil painting in art class which lead to skating and graffiti. I was heavy into the graffiti scene from 18-25. It wasn’t till 27 till I showed my work in the gallery setting. Before that is was only found outdoors.
GP: You grew up in “the graffiti and skate scene.” how did that affect you art?
GM: They are both go hand in hand. In CT / NYC graffiti was in most skate spots and all my friends I skated with were writers. We would hang at spots with our black books in middle school and just trade work and session. Those were the good old days.. Graffiti has affected my colors, character work and line work.
GP:Do you do either?
GM: I used to skate a lot more back in the day. I do my best to get out and roll around when I get some free time but usually it’s just to keep my legs fresh for snowboard season. Being from up north, I’d pick a day of riding power over a day on the concrete any day.
GP: Your first solo exhibition, Popstars and Cokeheads at Kai Lin, was quite a success. What can we expect from you next?
GM: Miami and NYC show are in the works and a number of collaboration projects with a few well known brands. My main focus is just continue to develop my art and characters and let it grow as organically as possible. I’m planning on more experimentation with the mediums and formats of my characters in the future. More installations, only larger in size. I’m a big fan of large format works so as time progresses hopefully will also the size of the works.
GP: Any collaborations?
GM: I recently did a collaboration project with photographer Sean Desmond out of San Francisco for “The Tenderloin Project.” He sent me a print and I painted over it and sent it back. He asked Mike Giant, Mark Bode, Apex, Oliver Black and myself all do them which was interesting to see how everyone interpreted the works differently. More info: http://thetenderloinproject.com/ and on Http://www.gregmike.com
I have another collaboration deal in the works with a skate brand but can’t speak much about it until it drops.
GP: What inspired the Popstars and Cokeheads exhibition in Atlanta?
Pop culture and mixed emotions.
GP: Before I got there, I was expecting an arsenal of painted soda cans, but then I was surprised to to see a number of installations, t-shirts, skateboards, even beer coasters. How’ did you find time to accomplish so much?
GM: The trick is try to sleep as least as possible and create as much as possible.
GP: It took you ten months to produce the exhibition, would you consider it to be a success?
GM: I was happy with the exhibition and glad to work with KAI LIN ART. From the minute I walked into the space, he was 100% down with me transforming his space into whatever I wanted so it was a breath of fresh air. No limitations creatively.
GP: You’ve grown a bit infamous for painting coke cans. What was you thinking when you painted your first one?
GM: It was a experiment in the beginning and developed organically from some sketches in my blackbook. It was nice to see the collection grow and watch the characters come to life on different objects. It took a few weeks to get my process down to a finished product that I was happy with and now there is about 100+ cans in the collection. I hope to be around 150 by the end of the summer and I don’t plan on stopping until I’m laying in the casket.
GP: What is the message (or story) your artwork tells?
GM: Don’t drink the cola.
GP: I hear that your father is also an artist, how did that influence you and your work?
GM: I wouldn’t say he’s a visual artist, but more of a jack of all creative trades. He has always influenced me from all aspects of design whether it be architecture, art, visual productions, etc. I think personally, it’s more his work ethic that inspires me, talk about a dude who doesn’t sleep and makes shit happen.
GP: Previously, you worked with premium denim company, Carpe Denim, tell us about that experience.
GM: I started Carpe Denim in 2001 while in college. This was before the “denim bubble” exploded and everyone and their mother was designing $300+ jeans. It was a wonderful experience and opened my eyes to the world as I started staying in China for a few months each year to produce our jeans. We grew the Carpe brand on grassroots movement and it now sells to department stores like Bloomingdales and Nordstroms. I stepped down as creative director of Carpe a few years ago to focus on my art and other creative projects.
GP: You also created the Trafik Tradeshow in Florida, how did this come about?
GMWe were living in Atlanta and noticed a void in the apparel market for contemporary clothing. We would travel to NYC, CALI and Vegas to meet with stores for our brand and they all had shows that were creative and a were a pleasure to attend. There was nothing in the southeast that we felt fit the vibe of the brands like us so we started the TRAFIK TRADESHOW in Atlanta. Two years later we decided to move it to South Beach, Miami as it offered a greater attraction with the beautiful weather and beach. It was nice handling the creative for Trafik as there were so many elements from visuals art / graphic design to interior design and product development.
GP: How is working with Dallas Austin, on his Rowdy collection?
GM: It’s always a pleasure working with Dallas, he’s one of the most creative people I’ve worked with over the years. His imagination is killer and he’s always pushing others and him self to the next level. He’s multi-talented from everything from music to photography.
GP: What advice do you have for young, upcoming artist?
GM: Never stop creating, trust your struggle, dream big and do what you love because you only live once.
GP: What do you do when you need a break from making art?
GP: Favorite City?
GM: New York City
GP: What inspires you?
GM: Living and the internet.
GP:How does music influence your art?
Music is my speed. It dictates my mood and my energy.
GP: Who are your favorite artist?
GM: Musically, Miike Snow, B.O.B, Gorillaz, Donnis, Bob Dylan, and The Beatles. Visually, Ron English, Josh Keyes, Michael Whelan, Keith Haring and any of the artists in the ABV COLLECTIVE.
GP: Where are you from?
GM: Hat City aka Danbury, Connecticut.
GP: How old are you?
GM: Old enough to buy beer but not close to being over the hill.
GP: Last words.
GM: Big ups to Greedmont, looking forward to the future!
Words by: Corey Davis