Retrospective of late artist Mike Kelley comes home to Los Angeles

Sun Mar 30, 2014 12:34pm EDT
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Eric Kelsey

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - With sullied stuffed animals, models of a sci-fi city and a statue of astronaut John Glenn covered in broken ceramic, a retrospective on influential contemporary artist Mike Kelley opens on Monday in Los Angeles, two years after the artist took his own life.

The idiosyncratic artist is best known for his work with found objects that evoke and question memories from youth, notably 1987's "More Love Hours Than Can Ever Be Repaid and the Wages of Sin," a collection of discarded stuffed animals and dolls hung on used afghans next to a table of candles.

The exhibition at the city's Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) is as moving as it is large. Organizers began assembling the 250-plus-work show in 2008 with Kelley but had to finish it without him after his death at age 57 in January 2012.

"It was going to be a thematic retrospective that was very much involved in his participation and collaboration," said Ann Goldstein, the exhibition's curator and a former artistic director at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam.

"With his absence there was a feeling that it needed to be a different kind of show, that maybe because the work was suddenly brutally finished," Goldstein added.

The show marks not only the first under new director Philippe Vergne, but it is also a chance for the institution to reboot itself after funding and leadership troubles in the past year threw into doubt its future as an independent museum.

Kelley was born in 1954 in suburban Detroit and attended the University of Michigan before moving to Southern California in 1976 to attend the California Institute of the Arts and later settling in as a prominent figure in the Los Angeles art scene.

Kelley, working closely with college friend and artist Jim Shaw, helped form a second generation of post-war Los Angeles artists in the wake of the pop painting of Ed Ruscha and conceptual art of John Baldessari, who was Kelley's professor. His death came as a shock to the art world.   Continued...

People view art pieces based on the bottle city of Kandor during an exhibition of work by the late artist Mike Kelley during a media preview at The Geffen Contemporary at The Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in Los Angeles, California March 28, 2014. REUTERS/Jonathan Alcorn