Mike Kelley RIP

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Mike Kelley RIP

Post  eddie on Fri Feb 03, 2012 12:45 am

Mike Kelley, the US artist acclaimed for his unsettling installations, dies at 57

Artist and proto-punk rocker, whose disturbing multimedia pieces were shown in leading galleries, is found dead in his LA home

Alex Needham

guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 1 February 2012 23.59 GMT


The Glass Bottomed Grotto, from Mike Kelley's show last year, Exploded Fortress of Solitude, at the Gagosian Gallery London. Photo: Sarah Lee for the Guardian

The American artist Mike Kelley has been found dead at his home in Los Angeles aged 57. Kelley received art world acclaim for his unsettling multimedia work, which combined installation, performance and music and appeared in major galleries around the world including the Whitney in New York and the Louvre.

Kelley's themes were often sinister, pathetic or repulsive, conflating high art, pop culture and critical theory to disturbing effect. His most recent UK show, at London's Gagosian gallery, featured caves, grottos and bottled model cities based on the city of Kandor from the Superman comics, along with an S&M-themed film.

In 2009 Kelley told Interview magazine: "I chose to become an artist because I wanted to be a failure. When I was young, if you wanted to really ostracize yourself from society, you became an artist." He described himself as a "blue-collar anarchist".

Kelley was born in Detroit in 1954. In the early 70s he formed a proto-punk band admired by the legendary rock critic Lester Bangs, called Destroy All Monsters, whose gigs were said to be so extreme they approached performance art. He left the band and in 1976 started studying at the California Institute of the Arts alongside John Baldessari and Laurie Anderson.

Though Kelley's work expanded into many different areas, it continued to involve music. In 2009 he created Day is Done, a feature-length musical, while one of his characteristic sculptures, made from a soft toy, featured on the cover of Sonic Youth's 1992 album Dirty. By this time Kelley's career was taking off: his first retrospective at the Whitney took place the following year.

The Guardian's art critic Adrian Searle described Kelley's 2004 Tate Liverpool show, in which he placed his work alongside controversial work by artists including Sarah Lucas and the Chapmans, as "fascinating, lubricious, frightening and appalling … an inventory of good art and bad; the creepy, the weird, the stupid, the unpleasant, the misconceived and the plain nasty".

Helen Winer of New York gallery Metro pictures, who represented Kelley for 20 years, said that the artist had taken his own life. "It is totally shocking that someone would decide to do this, someone who has success and renown and options," she said. In a statement, his studio said: "Mike was an irresistible force in contemporary art…. We cannot believe he is gone. But we know his legacy will continue to touch and challenge anyone who crosses its path."

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Re: Mike Kelley RIP

Post  eddie on Fri Feb 03, 2012 12:49 am

Mike Kelley: LA baroque

Kelley's untimely death reminds me that his strange, fresh, punk-personal work made him defiantly an artist of Los Angeles

Jonathan Jones

THe Guardian


American conscience … artist Mike Kelley. Photograph: Peter Rigaud/Corbis Outline

Mike Kelley's last exhibition in London was called Exploded Fortress of Solitude. At its heart was a darkly crystalline cave, a grotto of synthetic materials. Inside it, props from a fantasy film (the title was a reference to Superman's secret hideout at the North Pole) seemed to offer a secret that remained elusive. Other exhibits had the same feel of tacky science fiction and mythology, from fragments of a shattered Greek colossal statue to a film of piratical Sadeian shenanigans.

Every work of art I saw by Kelley was fresh, strange, and intensely personal. The touch of the artist is what post-conceptual art is supposed to lack – and sometimes does. But Kelley always seemed to be doing something he needed to do and, more enigmatically, saying something he needed to say.

His death at the age of 57 is all the sadder for seeming, from early reports, to be self-inflicted. Here was one of the most celebrated artists of our time, represented by one of the most powerful galleries and widely feted for his insouciant originality. But friends have reported deep despair or depression.

Could you perceive that in his last British show? There was certainly dissipation and consuming irony and macabre humour. But that went with the territory. Kelley was not just an artist; he was a Los Angeles artist, one of the distinctive, mordant voices who made this sprawling west coast city famous – in some circles anyway – for contemporary art as well as films, music, and driving.

Along with Paul McCarthy, with whom he sometimes collaborated, Kelley drew attention to the defiantly counter-cultural Los Angeles art scene. Paradoxically, under the shadow of Hollywood which might lead you to expect conformity, artists on the west coast have often been more independent, wilful, and socially critical than their New York peers. The punk attitudes of Mike Kelley echo the earlier sensibilities of west coast artists such as Ed Kienholz and Dennis Hopper (photographer as well as film star).

Kelley and McCarthy shared the unease of these earlier Californian artists – but made it louder, brasher, more forceful than ever before. The sprawl and epic clutter of Kelley's vision matched Los Angeles itself: perhaps the right word for his art is LA baroque, for, just as artists in 17th-century Italy gave the corrupt Rome of the popes an art to match its power, so did Kelley give LA a mirror big and black enough to do it justice. His shock death is another chapter in the tabloid history of the modern world's most revolutionary city.

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Re: Mike Kelley RIP

Post  eddie on Sat Feb 04, 2012 5:30 pm

Mike Kelley's art – in pictures

Mike Kelley, who has died aged 57, received art world acclaim for his unsettling multimedia work, which combined installation, performance and music and appeared in major galleries around the world. Here is a selection of highlights from his career

guardian.co.uk, Friday 3 February 2012 17.21 GMT

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Re: Mike Kelley RIP

Post  eddie on Sat Feb 04, 2012 5:31 pm


EAPR #21 (Chicken Dance) 2005 (ed 5)
From Kelley's Extracurricular Activity Projective Reconstruction, a series of video pieces started in 2000. Photograph: Gagosian Gallery

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Re: Mike Kelley RIP

Post  eddie on Sat Feb 04, 2012 5:37 pm


Exploded Fortress of Solitude
This was Kelley's last show in London. At its heart was a darkly crystalline cave made from synthetic materials, with props from a fantasy film inside. Photograph: Gagosian Gallery

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Re: Mike Kelley RIP

Post  eddie on Sat Feb 04, 2012 5:41 pm


Horse Busts, Horse Bodies, 2005
Mixed media with video projectionPhotograph: Gagosian Gallery

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Re: Mike Kelley RIP

Post  eddie on Sat Feb 04, 2012 5:44 pm


Kandor 10A
One of Kelley's representations of Kandor, a fictional city on Superman's home planet, Krypton. Photograph: Gagosian Gallery

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Re: Mike Kelley RIP

Post  eddie on Sat Feb 04, 2012 5:48 pm


Kandor 10B
Kelley's installations often invoked a sense of uneasePhotograph: Gagosian Gallery

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Re: Mike Kelley RIP

Post  eddie on Sat Feb 04, 2012 5:53 pm


Kandor 12A
Kelley noticed that Kandor was represented in various ways in Superman comic books, and created a number of 3D representations of the cityPhotograph: Gagosian Gallery

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Re: Mike Kelley RIP

Post  eddie on Sat Feb 04, 2012 5:57 pm


EAPR #20 (Lonely Vampire) - 2005 (ed 5)
From Kelley's Extracurricular Activity Projective Reconstruction. Photograph: Gagosian Gallery

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Re: Mike Kelley RIP

Post  eddie on Sat Feb 04, 2012 6:02 pm


KELLE EAPR #7 (Woods Group) – 2005 (ed 5)
In a statement following Kelley's death, Helen Winer of New York gallery Metro Pictures, who represented Kelley for 20 years, said: 'We know his legacy will continue to touch and challenge anyone who crosses its path. 'Photograph: Gagosian Gallery

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