BOSTON, MASS.- The Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston
opened Mary Reid Kelley's first solo museum exhibition, featuring four key videos dating from 2008 to the present. Best known for her highly stylized black-and-white films inspired by historical and myth-based iconography, Mary Reid Kelleys work is a close examination of political frictions affecting the lives of women, the discourse of war, and other pivotal historical events as seen through the eyes of fictitious characters such as nurses, soldiers, and prostitutes. Reid Kelleys videos are composed of elaborate period costumes replete with dramatic makeup, dynamic theatrical sets and a layered narrative script punctuated by punning wordplay. With this scripted, poetic narrative, Reid Kelley depicts the imbalance of power through pivotal moments in which womens roles were transformed. Organized by Jenelle Porter, Mannion Family Senior Curator, Mary Reid Kelley is on view at the ICA through October 27, 2013.
A trained painter, Mary Reid Kelleys costumes, sets and props are designed to appear as a sort of three-dimensional drawing, relying heavily on a stark black-and-white color palette. At the center of each video is a protagonist played by Reid Kelley herself, accompanied by several auxiliary characters often played by members of Reid Kelleys family. Her key work, The Syphilis of Sisyphus, is an eleven-minute video in which Reid Kelley plays a 19th-century Parisian prostitute who ponders the fate of woman through a poetic monologue. Both melodramatic and disturbing, her work addresses issues of gender and artifice in 1852 Paris.
Reid Kelleys most recent work, Priapus Agonistes (2013), is an adaptation of the Greek Minotaur myth that recasts Priapusa god of fertility and protector of livestock known for his large, enduring erectionas a volleyball player. Pitting religion against myth, Priapus represents a shift for Reid Kelley, although as in all of her works to date, humankinds perennial desire to escape the roles assigned by nature and culture remains at the heart of the work. Reid Kelleys work makes this plight palpable through history, and palatable through comedy.
Mary Reid Kelley earned her BA from St. Olaf College, Minnesota, and her MFA from Yale University. She has exhibited in several solo and group exhibitions nationally and internationally, and received numerous honors and awards including the Joseph H. Hazen Rome Prize from the American Academy in Rome, and the Rema Hort Mann Foundation Grant. Mary Reid Kelley lives and works in upstate New York.