Formerly known as 'KETS', Los Angeles-based Danish visual artist Mikael B makes paintings that blend cubism with 'Wildstyle' graffiti, and produces design collaborations with popular brands.Read More
Born in Denmark in 1984, Mikael B. (born Mikael Brandrup) was raised in Holbæk. As a child, he began painting with spray cans on wooden boards in the family's backyard on Tuse Næs. During his teenage years, Mikael B. became involved in Copenhagen's graffiti scene, painting hundreds of city walls that he signed as 'KETS'.
Later, Mikael B. turned to study graphic design. Mid-way through, however, he abandoned his formal training to establish IDentity Provided, a design agency, with his brother Morten. This design work would run parallel to his artmaking until the mid-2010s.
In 2014, a photo of Mikael B's Vibrant World (2014) went viral, accelerating the artist's rapidly developing career. Vibrant World is a semi-abstract interpretation of a world map rendered in bold colours and layers of spray paint. In works like World of Life (2020), he continues to play with this format.
With the viral attention garnered by Vibrant World came demands for prints, providing a launch pad for the artist's career. Encouraged by this global response, Mikael and his brother sold their business and moved to Los Angeles to focus on art production.
In these seminal paintings, Mikael B.'s graffiti and graphic design background collide with fine arts traditions. Using a mixture of spray and acrylic paint, in conjunction with tape to produce crisp lines, Mikael B. references the cubist style of Pablo Picasso with elements of Salvador Dali's Surrealism. This can be seen in series like 'Night Light' (2020) and 'Night Drive' (2021).
Other series, like 'Starry Night' (2020) and 'Glowing Embers' (2021), by contrast reference the expressive approach of Jackson Pollock's action painting. To all these adapted influences, Mikael brings the vibrant, Pop-inspired colours and energetic forms of his earlier street art.
Mikael B. has also begun to experiment with three-dimensional work. An early example was his decoration of Philippe Starck's duck sculpture for SLS Hotel Miami in conjunction with Art Basel Miami.
The 3D-printed and spray-painted sculpture, HYPERCUBE (2017), is the first of the artist's three-dimensional renditions of his two-dimensional geometric works. His first bronze sculpture, Swing Symphony Sculpture (2021), while forsaking bright colours for a chemical stone patina, is related to a series of the same name that presents what the artist described as a 'musical visualization' of his graffiti style.
In recent years, Mikael B has undertaken collaborations with various popular and luxury brands, including American Express, Bentley, Nike, Heineken, LinkedIn, Google, and Topps' 'Project 70'. Since 2015, Mikael B. has also completed numerous public and private mural commissions in Miami, Los Angeles, Copenhagen, and Ljusdal, Sweden, among other places. In 2018, his mural Vivid Rhythms (2018) earned him a Certificate of Recognition by the City of Los Angeles.
Miakel B uses his influence as an international artist to support global philanthropic causes in an effort he labels #artawareness. An ambassador for the Red Cross Denmark and The Perfect World Foundation, Mikael B has also contributed to Maddox Gallery's Art for Heroes initiative, the Phase One Foundation 'Art vs Cancer' show, and the 'Attenborough Forest' project.
Mikael B exhibits widely in galleries in the U.S. and Denmark, and has regularly featured at Art Basel Miami.
Mikael B's solo exhibitions include Flow State, Maddox Gallery, Los Angeles (2021); Never Tomorrow, The Plant, Copenhagen (2018); Reality Shift, Gregorio Escalante Gallery, Los Angeles (2017); and Just Be, &tradition, Copenhagen (2016). His group exhibitions include Decked Out, ABVGallery, Atlanta (2019); Colors Lines Layer, CASS Contemporary, Tampa, Florida (2017); Emerging Alchemy, Project Gallery, Los Angeles (2015); Product Displacement, Corey Helford Gallery, Los Angeles (2015).
Michael Irwin | Ocula | 2021