Chicano lettering, fixed gear bikes, and yoga classes shouldn't really mix.
Yet, in the world of Michael LeSage, these influences converge to form a natural, distinctly American aesthetic. Born in Upstate New York, LeSage moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico as a child and matured in San Francisco. His art, produced under the name Mike Giant, spans three disciplines—drawing, graffiti, and tattoo—seamlessly mixing Catholic elements found in Southwestern American art with hip-hop, skateboard, and rave culture icons. All of this happens with unquestionable authenticity, driven by a draughtsman's sense of line (LeSage studied architecture at college) and keen cultural observation.
Mike Giant is REALLY F*CKING prolific.
GIANT - Eternal functions much like a traditional monograph. However, in keeping with LeSage's outsider viewpoint, it veers from strict explanation of the individual works. The context of the man provides context for the material—knowing Giant, simply put, allows for a fluid understanding of his output.
The book begins directly: LeSage introduces himself via a comprehensive interview that touches on childhood and begins to reveal the trajectory of Giant's artistic life. A short set of essays by friends and colleagues follow. Bobby Ruiz, founder of the seminal streetwear brand Tribal, succintcly describes Mike, "He is a real dude who gets it, who has been there, seen it, done it, and paid his dues," in "Homies for Life." Greg S. Carroll, who hired LeSage at Think Skateboards, and Joshy D., Giant's partner at Rebel 8, shed light on LeSage's personality. These reflections offer as much about Giant (Carroll notes that "Mike Giant is a fabricated identity," while LeSage is "a person who brings peace to my life") as they do set the social milieu that breeds the look, feel, and power of his work. There is metal. There is hip-hop. There are the Invisible Scratch Piklz in a gay club in the Tenderloin. And, there are vegan lunches. Nothing seems out of place. In fact, the diversity of activity serves to ground the trajectory of the visuals.
The remainder of the book unfolds in concise sections—graffiti, tattoos, photography, wheels, drawing, multimedia, and commercial work. Under the creative direction of Roger Gastman, the images come fast and furious. LeSage introduces each with a short essay (or, more aptly, random, stream of conscious reflections about his connection to the respective medium), followed immediately by a barrage of images. The structure functions to highlight the artist's passions and simultaneously hammer down a key point: Mike Giant is REALLY FUCKING prolific.
LeSage is a rare case of commercial and fine art viability. His aesthetic rings as true on skate decks and t-shirts as it does on limited prints. It also encapsulates a shift from a frenetic youth to a more conscious middle age.
GIANT - Eternal encapsulates a career. As the pages flip, LeSage becomes Mike Giant and the high points of American youth culture of the '90s and early '00s converge. Here is an artist that is, quite clearly, individually constructed, but also completely emblematic of his time and audience. For this, Mike Giant is one of the most important vernacular artists of our time. GIANT - Eternal is essential reading.
GIANT - Eternal is available now from Gingko Press
304 Pages / Hardcover
9 1/4” x 11 1/4” / 680 Illustrations
ISBN: 978-1-58423-502-6 / $39.95