NYC ARTIST PORTFOLIO PART THREE – MICHAEL KAGAN

NYC ARTIST PORTFOLIO PART THREE – MICHAEL KAGAN

Discover the third series of new artists based in New York City.

Michael Kagan’s work focuses on iconic images… man pushing the limit of what he can do and knowing he might die doing it. Kagan’s paintings oscillate between the abstract and the representational with forceful brushstrokes. As sections of abstract brushwork are created to form a large image, the painting is finished when it can fall apart and come back together depending on how it is read and the closeness to the work. The paintings are images, snapshots that capture fast, flash moments, quick reads that are locked into memory by their iconic silhouettes. Michael Kagan lives and works in Brooklyn. He holds an MFA from New York Academy of Art (2005), where he was awarded a post graduate fellowship (2005-6). He has done multiple collaborations with Pharrell Williams and Mr. Williams’ company, Billionaire Boys Club. He has also created a series of commissions based on the archives from The Smithsonian. Most recently, his artwork was used as the cover of the White Lies’ album, “Big TV”. The album cover was listed on multiple lists of the top covers of the year and won the top prize of Best Art Vinyl of 2013.

Please tell us a little bit about yourself and your artwork. I am a painter living and working in NY. My work focuses on iconic images like man pushing the limit of what he can do and knowing he might die doing it; the triumph of man in split second moments. The paintings oscillate between the abstract and the representational. The painting is finished when it can fall apart and come back together depending on how it is read and the closeness to the work. Each painting is an image, a snapshot, a flash moment, a quick read that is locked into memory by the iconic silhouettes.
How do you relate to New York with your work? Through out art history, the location where artists work is important. Their studio, their base of operation, etcetera, has a huge impact on their work. The size of the city and the caliber of world class artists that call New York their base of operation and the size of the galleries here have always pumped me up to make large scale ambitious paintings.

New York is an extremely dense environment both socially and physically. Which one would you say has a larger impact on your work? Both, they work together. It may be cliché to say, but New York drives me. I knew the moment I arrived over a decade ago that I would never leave. I am surrounded by the best of the best in every field: fashion, art, etc. It pushes me, the pace and intensity of the city makes me work harder. I love being in my studio pulling all-nighters while preparing for a show. New York really shaped my studio practice and how I work in the studio. There’s no city I’d rather live in, and no place I would rather be than in my studio.
How has the location you grew up in affected your process, and does this continue to influence your practice today?  I grew up on the beach in Virginia where surfing and skating were part of my daily life. I learned about space through telescopes with my father. I watched the jets blast off from the nearby base. All these experiences and sites became a foundation to explore these subjects in my work.
Who or what are among your major influences as an artist? People and moments that took mankind to the next level. Yeager going supersonic and breaking the sound barrier, Senna pulling G forces around corners and becoming a legend in Formula 1 racing, Mark Foo surfing waves the size of city buildings; Iconic moments in history that have that split second of triumph.
What continues to inspire you to create? The pace of time that I control while I make a painting, each brush stroke is a moment of time that I am locking down. The obsessiveness with the painting I am working on, how it is the most important thing at the moment, and the way that I know my best painting will always be the next one I make.

Portrait by Cameron Krone
Fashion Editor El Lewis
Words by Scully