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Largest exhibition of Mike Kelley's work opens at The Museum of Contemporary Art in L.A.
A general view of atmosphere at the "Mike Kelley" exhibition media preview at The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA on March 28, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. Rachel Murray/Getty Images for MOCA/AFP.
LOS ANGELES, CA.- The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles presents Mike Kelley, the largest exhibition of the artist’s work to-date and the first comprehensive survey since 1993. Regarded as one of the most influential artists of our time, Mike Kelley (1954–2012) produced a body of deeply innovative work mining American popular culture and both modernist and alternative traditions—which he set in relation to relentless, dark, and delirious examinations of self and society. Bringing together over 250 works, from 1974 through early 2012, Mike Kelley occupies the entirety of The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA and a part of MOCA Grand Avenue, from March 31 through July 28, 2014.

Born in Detroit, Kelley lived and worked in Los Angeles from the mid-1970s until his death last year at the age of fifty-seven. Over his thirty-five year career, he worked in every conceivable medium—drawings on paper, sculpture, performance, music, video, photography, and painting. Speaking of his early work and artistic concerns at large, Kelley has said, “My entrance into the art world was through the counter-culture, where it was common practice to lift material from mass culture and ‘pervert’ it to reverse or alter its meaning… Mass culture is scrutinized to discover what is hidden, repressed, within it.” Through his art, Kelley explored themes as diverse as American class relations, sexuality, repressed memory, systems of religion and transcendence, and post-punk politics. He brought to these subjects both incisive critique and abundant, self-deprecating humor.

Kelley’s work did not develop along a purely linear trajectory. Instead, he returned time and again to certain underlying themes—the shapes lurking underneath the carpet, as it were—including repressed memories, disjunctions between selfhood and social structures, as well as fault lines between the sacred and the profane. The work Kelley produced throughout his life was marked by his extraordinary powers of critical reflection, relentless self-examination, and a creative repurposing of ideas and materials.

“Mike Kelley’s brilliance was rooted in his ability to dig critically into a world of cultural productions, representations, and constructions in all their messy contradictions, using a combination of incisive wit, poetic insight, and uncanny associative power,” exhibition curator and former director of the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam Ann Goldstein commented. “Nothing is sacrosanct in his work—not so-called high culture, history, literature, music, philosophy, psychology, religion, or education. In bringing together his interest in so-called low culture—from crafts to comic strips—with a reconsideration of identity and sexuality, he was nothing less than revelatory.”

“MOCA would not be the place it is without Mike Kelley,” says Curator Bennett Simpson. “The Museum grew up with him, and he with it.”

Kelley has a deep and lasting connection to Los Angeles and MOCA. Moving to Southern California in 1976 to attend California Institute of the Arts (CalArts), Kelley remained in Los Angeles after graduating, quickly becoming influential as an artist, teacher, collaborator, and experimental musician. Since his inclusion in the museum’s inaugural exhibition, The First Show: Paintings and Sculpture From Eight Collections 1940-1980 (1983), MOCA has acquired thirty-six of Kelley's works including Pay for Your Pleasure (1988), gift of Timothy P. and Suzette L. Flood; Silver Ball (1994), donated by Blake Byrne; and Garbage Drawing #58 (1988), a promised gift of Mandy and Cliff Einstein. Kelley’s works in the collection have been included in more than twenty permanent collection exhibitions at MOCA, such as Sitings: Installation Art 1969-2002 (2003), Collection: MOCA's First Thirty Years (2009), and The Artist's Museum (2010). His work has also been featured in numerous group and thematic exhibitions, including A Forest of Signs: Art in the Crisis of Representation (1989); Helter Skelter: L.A. Art in the 1990s (1992); Out of Actions: Between Performance and the Object, 1949-1979 (1998); and, most recently, Under the Big Black Sun: California Art 1974-1981 (2011). In 2004, Kelley co-organized Street Credibility at MOCA, an exhibition of photographs by Diane Arbus, her peers, and artists she inspired.





Today's News

March 29, 2014

Largest exhibition of Mike Kelley's work opens at The Museum of Contemporary Art in L.A.

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