Mike Habs is a contemporary visual artist originally from Chicago's south side. Having moved to Los Angeles 5 years ago, his work has incorporated many street art, abstract expressionist, and fine art finish fetish techniques. Each piece of his work is inspired by and interprets modern punk rock music.
In his new solo exhibition “(gas)Lit” Mike has developed a more conceptual collection using small zip lock bags commonly used sell drugs to create provocative mosaics, a much different direction than his previous expressionist work
QWhat drives you as an artist? What inspires you?
AThere are a lot of things that drive me towards making new work, but learning more about different techniques and artists seems to really keep pushing me on how to continue taking risks and challenging myself. A lot of times when I’m working I listen to documentaries about artists that I’ve admired like Banksy, Damien Hirst, Sir Francis Bacon, and Andy Warhol. Learning about their tribulations and whatnot always encourages me to keep moving forward.
As for inspiration, I get a lot from the people around me like family and friends. The music I reference is obviously a huge inspiration too. When I really connect with a song sometimes it feels like I’m documenting how the song feels rather than creating a new idea or concept.
QWhat is your goal as an artist?
AI like to make quality, original work accessible to the people enjoy it. It’s also important that every piece has an energetic feel to it. Putting my processes on Instagram really helped me connect this with people who enjoy it. I like how that has helped remove a lot of exclusivity that’s around some modern art.
A lot of people have reached out over the past year and said watching me work on the paintings for so long inspired them to start doing something they really care about again. That’s more rewarding than anything else.
QCan you describe your process? How does your chosen medium influence your pieces?
AMy process changes a lot with each progression in the work and has evolved in many different ways. The earlier work was much more experimental and free flowing, I would listen to the songs and albums over and over while I painted and just go for it. Then as the pieces got more challenging and time consuming, I worked more with the lyrics and metaphors within the music to construct and execute the idea.
In this newest collection, the bags and finish would interact differently with every detail involved in the process. This required a much more technical approach on the execution where measurements, type of adhesive, and color pallet required a lot of upfront attention. The bags come in lots of different designs but I focused on three in particular that are symbols of luxury, death, and fantasy. That really helped guide me on how to shape the pieces around those ideas.
I also listened to documentaries on visionaries outside of the art world while I made them, like the electricity guru Nicola Tesla, and some of those ideas bled into the work. He was compulsively obsessed with threes which made me start thinking about the patterns in a whole new way. Instead of having the pattern divisible by two in the measurements, I started realizing if the pattern was divisible by three it could have a beginning, middle, and end… a catalyst, reaction, and conclusion.
QCan you explain the role punk rock plays in your work?
AAbsolutely. I think that the primal, engaged, and thought provoking nature of the genre will always resonate with people. The idea really cascades beyond a music genre into a self-liberating mindset…it promotes the concept that innovation will always derive from the individual and not a collective. The more I analyze lyrics from the songs the more I realize a lot of these really insightful ideas wouldn’t have been given a proper platform otherwise.
QCan you explain the influences for your most recent collection?
AMy new collection was heavily influenced by both the good and bad trends that I’ve been witnessing in modern “street” art…The “yin and yang” if you will. I wanted to really make sure I really focused on what I admired from some of the great artists around me, and leveraged it to make a statement about some of the current alarming trends that we are seeing in today’s culture.
The work from artists like Moncho 1929, ThisIsAddictive, Bunnie Reiss, Cope2, and Prime really helped me set the tone on what my idea of soul, quality, wonder, and commitment should be held within each of the pieces.
QHow do you stay motivated through times lacking inspiration?
ACold Brew Coffee, Meditations, and Pabst Blue Ribbon.
QI hear your work has been featured in Will & Grace! What’s the story behind that? Has it appeared anywhere else notable?
AIt was pretty exciting. I signed with the WallspaceLA gallery last year, and my piece “Trying to Find a Balance” was on display. The long time set designer for the show Peter Gurski stopped by the gallery and rented it for an episode in Grace’s bathroom. Was really flattering to have it featured on NBC.
My piece “Black Me Out” was also on the ABC show “For The People” this year too. Having my work featured on these platforms has been really encouraging.
QIf you could share one message with the world, what would it be?
AIf you’re passionate about something do it yourself. There’s no sense in waiting on anyone else.
QIs there anything else you’d like the public to know about you? Or your work?
AIt’s hard to look at it that way because it’s all part of the process. I know I still have a lot of ways to grow and know that it will be tough and exciting at times. I was however, really fortunate to get great advice from artists I reached out to at the beginning so my advice to anyone would be that listening is just as if not more important than speaking.