The Fine Art of Machine Fabrication: How Mike Russek Uses New Technologies To Advance His Art Form
First and foremost an artist, Mike Russek is also a fabricator, a facilitator, and a visionary. 1028 Designs, his cutting-edge machine shop, is dedicated to producing art and artful architectural projects for himself as well as other artists, interior designers, apparel companies, music companies, entertainment industry icons, and famous DJs. He often describes himself as a “cocktail napkin translator,” because of his ability to translate rough sketches, ideas, or computer files into actual products. His collaborations with artists and designers on everything from fine art to product design, marketing tools to projection-mapped structures have made him a much sought-after expert in a relatively new field.
MIKE RUSSEK IN THE 1028 DESIGN SHOP. PHOTO BY JIMMY HICKY
Growing up in Greenwich, Connecticut as the gifted son of a Wall Street businessman, Mike’s artistic training started early. When his father changed his life to “follow his bliss” and moved the family to Virginia Beach to open a machine shop, Mike’s direction became clear. He began studying art in earnest, taking advanced art and technical college classes while still in high school, and later studied sculpture and painting at Virginia Commonwealth University. He developed his signature style while in grad school at the Maryland Institute College of Art. Describing his aesthetic as a relentless pursuit towards perfection of material and form, his work (and his company’s extensive capabilities) can be viewed at www.mikerussek.com.
CUSTOM MIDI CONTROLLER. PHOTO BY HENRY STRANGE
As an artist whose work combines various materials, multiple techniques and advanced technologies, Russek’s complex art is not inexpensive to produce or sell. He actually stopped making art from 2004-2007, because he couldn’t achieve the perfection he desired in his work. It needed the precision only achievable through laser–cutting, which he discovered in 2006, when it was very expensive and difficult to find.
THE “ORGANIZED CHAOS” EXHIBIT BY CYRCLE. PHOTO COURTESY THEONEPOINTEIGHT
With the help of a patron a year later, he purchased a laser cutter as his first piece of equipment. When he began posting images of experimental proj-ects to create business, his fabrication shop was born. Now 5 years later, he requests creative control on many of the projects his clients bring to him. This collaboration in the process allows him to advance the work to a whole new level, through his knowledge of the technology and the capabilities of his 4 laser cutters, his CNC machine, and his highly skilled crew.
FROM THE “ORGANIZED CHAOS” EXHIBIT BY CYRCLE. PHOTO COURTESY THEONEPOINTEIGHT
A recent project that epitomized his state–of-the-art ability was the art installation “Organized Chaos” by artist collective CYRCLE, which he co-produced with Black Dog Films and RSA. This successful art exhibit utilized every aspect of Russek’s production company, as well as his creative vision, resulting in sculpture and interactive art for a most memorable and exciting gallery show. The large-scale dimensional artwork combined woodworking, precision craftsmanship, laser–cutting, and CNC milling, producing one of the most innovative and jaw-dropping art exhibits I’ve seen in LA.
Watch out in 2013 for this artist on the rise, guiding a company with a meteoric future.
DETAIL OF “MEGA CHIP” WALL SCULPTURE BY MIKE RUSSEK. PHOTO COURTESY OF THE ARTIST