Mike Han is a Detroit based artist and designer.
The House of Han is a studio, gallery, body of work, and a royal Korean clan.
I seek to distill the complexity of life through an introspective practice of abstract yet purposeful mark making. My visual language is practiced in the way one might practice meditation. A mindful act that focuses on attention on present moment with the hope of finding peace and balance.
My practice is focused on finding harmony between hard and soft lines to create "dynamic balance".
Through carefully considered materials, I explore my identity as a Korean-Detroiter, sustainability, and the ways in which we are all connected. My practice is influenced by Korean calligraphy, graffiti, and modern design.
I find myself deeply connected to written language (graffiti and calligraphy), the urban environment (buildings, public space, and homes), and things made with great care by the stroke of a knife (slicing sashimi).
I believe the highest form of art is a life well lived, and so I find myself chasing my paintings as I seek to live life the way I make marks; fluid yet deliberate and confident, open and honest. My practice is an effort to overcome anxiety and fear as many of the works I create are done with an element of risk, no eraser, do-overs, or undo buttons.
I strive to live and create with purpose, continuous improvement, joy, kindness, carefulness and generosity.
My practice is burdened and bolstered by the understanding that in order to create, you must destroy. From this truth, I describe much of my work as Modern Vandalism. Modern Vandalism is the mindful act of destroying materials, products, and/or space in an effort to create value. We are all human, and from our environment's perspective, we are all vandals. We destroy, deface, and consume this place without permission. Much of that destruction is justified by value creation. But to whom is that value created? How long does that value last? Is it worth it?
I struggle to define value, and seek to better understand when is value. Sustainability is a paradox that seems to be time bound, and in most instances, it, just like value, is measured by perception. Sadly, humans participating in modern societies, may not be capable of living sustainably. That's a terribly depressing thought, and has been paralyzing for me at times. But we must live, and for humans that requires creating and consuming, so for me the question always comes back to, "how might we live well?"
Mike Han is an artist and designer based in Detroit with Korean heritage. He was born in Ann Arbor but has lived throughout MI, in Connecticut, NYC, Chicago, Indiana, Los Angeles, Miami, and Denver. During his formative years, Mike's father worked for Knoll in NYC. A visit to Keith Haring's Pop Shop in Soho and the graffiti throughout the city left a lasting impact on Mike, as did the Mid-Century Modern furniture he had the privilege of growing up around. These influences lay dormant until he visited S. Korea for the first time as a twenty something year old. There he witnessed a master calligrapher at work, and a craftsman carving dojang (wood carved signature used for formal documents).
After his awakening as a creative from his time in Korea, Mike has developed a focused artistic practice that is the confluence of traditional Korean crafts, graffiti, and modern design.
Mike is a Cheongju Han, a lineage with royal ancestry known as House of Han. The family clan dates back over 1,000 years, and one of his ancestors was one of the most well known Korean calligraphers in history, Han Seok-bong. Mike was the first born in America on his mother's side. She immigrated with her family into Detroit's Cass Corridor during the early 70s, and his father immigrated into Ypsilanti at about the same time, both from South Korea.
Mike has exhibited work in Seoul, South Korea, Detroit, Ann Arbor, and Miami. He has created work for clients in NYC, Chicago, and Osaka, Japan. Han has been commissioned to make art for Bloomingdale's 150th Anniversary, Detroit Pistons, Google for Startups, LinkedIn, vitaminwater, Patrick Thompson Design, the Detroit RiverFront Conservancy, Bamboo Royal Oak, Batch Brewing Co., HOMES Campus, and more.
Han has paintings in the permanent collections of Mercedes Benz Financial Services, Huntington Bank, Henry Ford Health Systems, Shinola Hotel, The Daxton Hotel, and the homes of private collectors and prominent leaders like Cindy Pasky and Dan Gilbert. Mike has collaborated with MarxModa (on MillerKnoll products), SEE Eyewear, Synecdoche Design, Leon Speakers, Mothfire Beer, and Coffehaus.
Han has created art installations for Red Bull and vitaminwater, and his work has been featured on BBC World News, Cool Hunting, designboom, Architecture's Digest, Apartment Therapy, Live in the D, the Urban Outfitters Blog, Detroit Home, Detroit Free Press, has been featured on the front page of the Detroit News and the cover of SEEN Magazine.
Mike has been an awards juror for ArtPrize, Ann Arbor Street Art Fair (The Original), and The CSCA's Creative Best Awards.
In 2021 Han won an Art Prize Equity Grant and was awarded a Red Bull Micro Grant. Han has had work purchased by Paramount Pictures for use in a feature film and his art installation at Art Prize was featured in the feature film Block Party.
Mike's artistic practice, focused on the truth that we are all connected, is made tangible in his work to support causes and non-profits he cares about. In the past two years Mike has helped raise over $220,000 for various causes that work to fight breast cancer, stop Asian hate, educate youth on art and entrepreneurship, and more.
Han was the founder of Street Culture Mash, a Detroit creative agency, which was responsible for creating and facilitating the Woodward Windows Project (2011-2013). The project transformed 7 vacant buildings in downtown Detroit into a world class public art gallery in partnership with 323 East Gallery, the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation, Farbman Group, and with support from Strategic Staffing Solutions. In less than two years, Han's work became a catalyst for economic development in downtown as he vacated the spaces to make room for H&M, Bonobos, and Madewell.
Mike lives and works out of a renovated Albert Kahn building in downtown Detroit with his cat Tum Tum.
Prior to Mike's success as a visual artist, he was an idealistic sushi chef. Mike opened NYC's first sustainable omakase sushi restaurant in the East Village. It was distinguished as a "Best New Restaurant in NYC" by the Village Voice in 2017 along side Michelin starred restaurant Cote. Han has lead sushi teams at highly acclaimed restaurants like Zuma in Miami, Roka Akor in downtown Chicago, and was formerly Chef De Cuisine for Bamboo Sushi in Denver (part of the world's first sustainable sushi restaurant group).
Han also opened Detroit's first sustainable sushi restaurant in 2018 which was the second restaurant he opened with both Seafood Watch and Smart Catch certifications. Mike has had the honor of making sushi at the James Beard House for a sustainable seafood dinner with acclaimed chefs from around the country.
As a chef, Mike was featured in the last print issue of The Village Voice, Edible Manhattan, Denver Westword, Detroit Free Press, and has done live TV segments in Chicago and Detroit. Although Mike no longer has any desire to open a restaurant, he plans to develop and express his Korean-American style of sustainable sushi as ephemeral art experiences in Detroit.
Tum Tum, aka tummy tum, aka chubby chub is a certified emotional support animal. He has FIV (feline AIDS), one squished little ear, and I adopted him from the Michigan Humane Society when he was 8 years old. He needs all the attention, and will not leave guests at my studio alone until they pet him. He wants to be pet a lot.