Mike Reesé Explores the Complexities of Life Through His Storybook Practice

Watch as Hypeart visits his DTLA studio to learn the intricacies of his hybrid book and exhibition, ‘Boyz II Beasts Act 1: No Soul Left Behind.’

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Mike Reesé is equal parts artist and storyteller. He uses his practice as a way to tell tales of pain, joy, tension and fantasy. Born and raised in Los Angeles, the thick applications of paint and cultural signifiers he uses is partly inspired by his own experiences, while purposefully left shrouded to leave an air of ambiguity for the viewer to piece together for themselves. As the art director of The OpM Company and co-founder of DREAMHAUS LA, Reesé, alongside fellow artist Nikkolos Mohammed, provide internships and creative workshops for youth of all ages to spark collaborations within the community, while empowering the unique expression native to each individual.

“I don’t think there is any type of formal protocol that any artist needs to follow to make impactful work,” Reesé tells Hypeart. “I do think impactful work comes from an authentic place and to create from authentic places, you may be in touch with yourself a little bit.” Following his inclusion in Hypeart’s Love Letters to LA exhibition, along with is own solo show, Boyz II Beasts Act 1: No Soul Left Behind, we got an in-depth tour into Reesé’s studio to understand the nuances of his practice, including his many impasto floral paintings, as well as his children’s books.

Masks, a major component to his last show, have historically been used as a performative tools to reveal and conceal. Painted using acrylic and oil pastel, Reesé’s grotesque masks explore complex human emotions tied to feelings and spiritualism, an introspective journey that he himself wasn’t able to discern until finishing the work as a series — a seven to eight year endeavor, he notes. Each image within Boyz II Beasts Act 1: No Soul Left Behind served a purpose: the roses alluding to the process of creation and the present moment and the faces “communicating the emotional complexities of dealing with life,” Reesé tells us.

This subjectivity that renders his work ambiguous, lies in the novel experiences he imbues in universally recognized cultural codes — symbols and colors that every individual can bring to the art-viewing experience, which in turn serves to fill a certain void, until, as author Alain de Botton says, an artwork’s message becomes a “little less necessary.”

Watch Boyz II Beasts in the video gallery above.

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