Mike Kelley (artist)  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Michael "Mike" Kelley (October 27, 1954 – January 31, 2012 or February 1, 2012) was an American artist. His work involved found objects, stuffed animals, textile banners, drawings, assemblage, collage, performance and video. He often worked collaboratively and had produced projects with artists Paul McCarthy, Tony Oursler and John Miller. His oeuvre is often discussed by critics as engaging with the concept of abjection.


Life and work

Kelley was born in Wayne, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit in 1954. In his early years he was involved with the city's music scene which spawned bands such as Iggy and the Stooges, Kelley was a member of the noise band Destroy All Monsters. In 1976 Kelley graduated from the University of Michigan. He moved to Los Angeles in 1978 and attended the California Institute of the Arts, where he admired the work of his teachers John Baldessari, Laurie Anderson, David Askevold and Douglas Huebler. At that time he started to work on a series of projects in which he explored works with loose poetic themes, such as The Sublime, Monkey Island and Plato's Cave, Rothko's Chapel, Lincoln's Profile, using a variety of different media such as drawing, painting, sculpture, performance and writing. Kelley started to gain recognition outside Los Angeles in the mid-eighties with the sculptural objects and installations from the series Half-a-Man and has since exhibited in galleries and museums worldwide and participated in events such as Documenta 9. Sonic Youth featured his work on the cover and booklet of their 1992 record Dirty. The Whitney Museum in New York City held a major retrospective of his work in 1993.

In November 2005, Kelley staged Day is Done, filling Gagosian Gallery with funhouse-like multimedia installations, including automated furniture, as well as films of dream-like ceremonies inspired by high school year book photos of pageants, sports matches and theater productions. In December 2005, Village Voice art critic Jerry Saltz described "Day is Done" as a pioneering example of "clusterfuck aesthetics," the tendency towards overloaded multimedia environments in contemporary art.

Kelley was also in the band Poetics with fellow California Institute of the Arts students John Miller and Tony Oursler.

Kelley's work was inspired by diverse sources such as history, philosophy, politics, underground music, decorative arts and working-class artistic expression. His art often examined class and gender issues as well as issues of normality, criminality and perversion.

Kelley was found dead in an apparent suicide in 2012.

A selection of representative works

  • "Mike Kelley at Skarstedt", 2010
  • Steinbach on Mike Kelley" at Overduin and Kite, 2008
  • "Mike Kelley's Proposal for the Decoration of an Island of Conference Rooms (with Copy Room) for an Advertising Agency Designed by Frank Gehry", 1992, Public Art
  • "Heidi", 1992, Video (in collaboration with Paul McCarthy)
  • "Pay for Your Pleasure", 1988, Installation
  • "Half-a-Man", 1987–91, Series of objects, drawings and installations


2008 Life on Mars, the 2008 Carnegie International

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Mike Kelley (artist)" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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