During the 1950s, Pop Art broke the canons of the conceptual art into vogue at that time -- abstract art and surrealism --, getting the art close to the common people again. Andy Warhol, Tom Wesselmann and Marcel Duchamp were the greatest bastions at this new way of making art, revolutionizing, once again, the whole aesthetic characteristics of the Occidental world.
The North-American citizen Mike Leavitt brings now a new manifest, for the popular art, made for common people, that kind of art which can be appreciated by everyone and accessible to those who want to have them. "So I picture my work living rooms not museums", he affirms at his manifest, criticizing the art made for pseudo-intellectuals, art historians, elitists and privileged people. According to him, conceptual art can dismantle the social issues, but emotion, entertaining, practicality and price accessibility remain aside. Instead, the considered poor art -- which begins at the graphic art and the graffiti and ends at toys, tattoos and kitsch -- is more accessible, fun and full of life.
Leavitt swims against the tide: he abandoned the course at the Brooklyn Art Institute at the first year and, since then, he remains dedicated to his own company at the city he was born, Seattle, making all the pieces with his own hands.
Evolved at a huge variety of undefined projects, the little action figures wasn't his first work. At "Hip Hopjects", he takes us back to the 1980s with classic shoes, tapedecks and other accoutrements replicated to exact specifications with cardboard, brown paper bag, and other such trash found in the street. At "Penny Places", he tells stories about coins found in the street, painted with tiny landscapes to depict the exact location where the penny was found. "ArtCards" are drawings made by the artist, sold in wrapped packs with a stale old crumbly piece of bubble gum. "Functional Objects" are quotidian pieces made for him, mixing art with the product: helmets, fire-lighters, WC-seats, earrings, and so on.
All of these stuffs are sold with more (or less) accessible prices, if we compare to the big canvas sold our for fancy prices at Paris or New York art galleries. "Art is boring and stuffy. I hate making normal art", he also declares at his manifest.
Concerning about the little action figures, he always made little cars, sceneries and basis for the small toys he was used to have when he was a child and was use to sculpt little wooden boats and airplanes. Achieving the adulthood, he decided to transport this attention to his way of making art. Embracing all kinds of historical personalities -- from Van Gogh to Tupac -- Leavitt satirizes the characters, bringing to them a different life. And they can be toys or wedding cake toppers.
At first, he made The Art Army: a team of soldiers composed by the most famous and talented artists: from Banksy to Van Gogh. Then, he got inspired by the accessibility of this shape and keep on doing these figures, portraying all kinds of personalities and organizing them in sections.
"Action Figures" can be called illustration, even if it's about sculptures and little figures. Leavitt isn't worried about that kind of association: for him, illustrations are a language used by authentic people, creating proximity and establishing connections between art and audience outside the artistic world. Illustration is a safe bridge which joins real life to art and fills the empty spaces left by post-modernism, at a desperate and democratic attempt.
From David Byrne to Barack Obama. From Jackson Pollock to Susan Boyle. From Damien Hirst to Dr. Phil. They are the heroes of the Occidental popular culture and now they deserve a place at the imagination of us into the shape of tiny satirical figures: some with grotesque finishing touches, others alluding to action stories.