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(1954 – 2012), USA

Mike Kelley Biography

One of the most prominent artists of his generation, Mike Kelley produced a vast range of works in drawing, sculpture, performance, music, video, photography and painting, as well as critical texts and collaborative works. He completed his studies at the University of Michigan and the California Institute of the Arts in 1976 and 1978 respectively. Kelley moved to the West Coast in the mid-1970s, and lived and worked in Los Angeles until his death in 2012.

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Kelley gained recognition in the 1980s for his work with children's soft toys and other found materials. With these materials, he examined popular culture, memories and fragmented narratives. In Eviscerated Corpse (1989), he sewed together rag dolls and stuffed animals that he had salvaged from thrift shops to make a cross between a human and a centipede. The installation was part of the larger series 'Half A Man' (1987–93) and critiqued the association of innocence with childhood and the idea of family. More Love Hours Than Can Ever Be Repaid and The Wages of Sin (1987)—an earlier creation from the same series—similarly incorporated soft toys and second-hand blankets. Kelley's conspicuous use of sewing and craft—skills traditionally regarded as 'feminine'—questioned the definitions of normalcy and gender.

Children's toys also function in Kelley's work as a satirical metaphor. Deodorized Central Mass with Satellites (1991–99) consists of suspended balls created from discarded, brightly coloured toys. By transforming children's toys into serious sculpture, Kelley visualised a darker side to the American dream's endorsement of excessive consumption and reckless luxury collecting, and intermingled the 'low' and the 'high' of American culture. He also deodorised his suspended sculptures, mocking America's selective amnesia of unpleasant realities.

The idea of memory was one of Kelley's longstanding interests. In 1983, he filmed a 28-minute video about The Banana Man—a character from the children's television show Captain Kangaroo. Since Kelley had not seen The Banana Man himself growing up, he asked his friends to share their memories for the reconstruction. In its incomplete study, far removed from the real character, The Banana Man offers an investigation into the fragility of human memory. In Educational Complex (1995), Kelley similarly reproduced the structures of every school he had attended, alongside his childhood home, as small architectural models. Blank spaces represented parts of buildings he could not remember. Kelley was intrigued by the increasing popularity of Repressed Memory Syndrome, which proposed that the human brain repressed traumatic memories and that therapy could recover them. The public grew interested in traumatic memories and child abuse, a phenomenon Kelley called an infatuation.

In 2010, Kelley collaborated with the London-based organisation Artangel to launch Mobile Homestead: a to-scale replica of his childhood home. Designed as a 'mobile home', the replica is constructed from lightweight white cardboard and has a removable clapboard façade. Kelley conceived of the project as a community gallery that would be driven around the streets of Detroit, serving the public with 'haircuts, social services, meeting space, and a place to hold barbecues and perhaps for the homeless to pick up mail', according to Randy Kennedy for The New York Times. Upon its completion, he recorded the house's launch in three videos that screened at the 2012 Whitney Biennial. Since Kelley's death, Mobile Homestead has stayed with the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD) and remains available for the community.

Outside his endeavours in visual media, Kelley also wrote and collaborated extensively. He has been published in journals including Artforum (2011, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2003, 1989), Journal of Contemporary Art (1994) and Art Issues (1990). He was an original member of Destroy All Monsters (1973–85), an experimental noise group founded with his friends Jim Shaw, Cary Loren and Niagara (Lynn Rovner). Kelley also collaborated with the band Sonic Youth in his performance Plato's Cave, Rothko's Chapel, Lincoln's Profile (1986) and with Paul McCarthy to produce Heidi (1992).

Kelley's work was and continues to be exhibited widely. Selected solo exhibition venues have included Gagosian Gallery, London (2011, 2007); Centre Pompidou, Paris (2013); MOCAD, Detroit (2013); and Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (1993). He also participated in multiple biennials, most notably the Whitney Biennial (2012, 2002, 1995, 1993, 1991, 1989, 1987, 1985), the Gwangju Biennale (2010), the Shanghai Biennale (2008), La Biennale de Lyon (2003, 2001), the 43rd Venice Biennale (1988) and the Sydney Biennale (1984).

After his death, the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam opened a major retrospective of his works, titled MIKE KELLEY: Themes and Variations from 35 Years (2012–13). Other posthumous exhibitions include Mike Kelley at The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (2014) and An Homage to Mike Kelley at MoMA PS1, New York (2012–13).

Kelley's works are in the collections of Art Institute of Chicago; Centre Pompidou, Paris; Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh; Detroit Institute of Arts; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; and Whitney Museum of American Art, New York among others. Kelley was a Guggenheim Fellow in 2003 and in 1997 he won the Skowhegan Medal for Mixed Media.

Sherry Paik | Ocula | 2017

Mike Kelley Featured Artworks

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Kandor 20 by Mike Kelley contemporary artwork
Mike KelleyKandor 20, 2007Mixed media with video
80 1/2 x 162 x 162 inches
Gary Tatintsian Gallery Contact Gallery
Lenticular 1 by Mike Kelley contemporary artwork
Mike KelleyLenticular 1, 2007Lenticular panel, lightbox
114.9 x 73.8 x 8.9 cm
Hauser & Wirth Contact Gallery
Carpet #2 by Mike Kelley contemporary artwork
Mike KelleyCarpet #2, 2003Acrylic on carpet, mounted on wood panel
101.9 x 124.5 x 10.2 cm
Hauser & Wirth Contact Gallery
Dialogue 6 (an example of reflection or absorption) by Mike Kelley contemporary artwork
Mike KelleyDialogue 6 (an example of reflection or absorption), 1991Blanket, ball, cushion, tape recorder, tape with text spoken and written by the artist
177 x 90 cm
Simon Lee Gallery Contact Gallery
Lenticular 7 by Mike Kelley contemporary artwork
Mike KelleyLenticular 7, 2007Lenticular panel, lightbox
181.9 x 126.7 x 8.9 cm
Hauser & Wirth Contact Gallery
Lenticular 3 by Mike Kelley contemporary artwork
Mike KelleyLenticular 3, 2007Lenticular panel, lightbox
126 x 97.8 x 8.9 cm
Hauser & Wirth Contact Gallery
Frankenstein by Mike Kelley contemporary artwork
Mike KelleyFrankenstein, 1989Found stuffed cloth animals, basket with thread, pin cushion, felt
31.7 x 198.1 x 71.1 cm
Simon Lee Gallery Contact Gallery
Lingam and Yoni (Grosse Ile) by Mike Kelley contemporary artwork
Mike KelleyLingam and Yoni (Grosse Ile), 2002Mixed Media
136 x 46 x 46 cm
Simon Lee Gallery Contact Gallery

Mike Kelley Current & Recent Exhibitions

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Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, (SELF) PORTRAITS at Parkett, Zurich
Open Now
22 February–30 September 2020 Group Exhibition (SELF) PORTRAITS ParkettZurich Exhibition Space
Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, Dog Days at Metro Pictures, New York
Closed
1 May–1 August 2020 Group Exhibition Dog Days Metro PicturesOnline Only
Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, Beside Itself at Hauser & Wirth, Hong Kong
Closed
30 April–30 June 2020 Group Exhibition Beside Itself Hauser & WirthOnline Only

Mike Kelley Represented By

Hauser & Wirth contemporary art gallery in Hong Kong Hauser & Wirth Hong Kong, Zurich, London, New York, Los Angeles, Somerset, Gstaad, St. Moritz

Mike Kelley In Ocula Magazine

Maureen Paley: A Trailblazing Gallerist Ocula Conversation Maureen Paley: A Trailblazing Gallerist By Rory Mitchell, London

After moving to London from her native East Coast of the United States, Maureen Paley opened her first gallery in the front room of her Victorian terraced house in 1984. She gave numerous international artists, including Peter Fischli and David Weiss, Mike Kelley, Charles Ray, and Christian Marclay their first exhibitions in London, quickly...

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Hauser & Wirth’s First VR Exhibition Introduces Menorca Space Ocula Insight Hauser & Wirth’s First VR Exhibition Introduces Menorca Space By Sam Gaskin, Menorca

Sam Gaskin reports on Hauser & Wirth's first Virtual Reality exhibition, Beyond Itself, which is presented in a simulacrum of the gallery's forthcoming space in Menorca, Spain.

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Mike Kelley In Related Press

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On Monstering: 'My Head Is a Haunted House' at Sadie Coles HQ and 'Dracula’s Wedding' at Rodeo, London—Curated by Charlie Fox Related Press On Monstering: 'My Head Is a Haunted House' at Sadie Coles HQ and 'Dracula’s Wedding' at Rodeo, London—Curated by Charlie Fox 1 July 2019, Mousse Magazine

Disorientingly familiar, the entrance of My Head Is a Haunted House is covered with a Twin Peaks –esque Red Room floor vinyl that grounds whatever happens there in another dimension. But in contrast to David Lynch’s tricks, there are no velvet curtains bordering an outside;1 there is no alternative to rambling through the rooms suffused in...

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Charlie Fox haunts London Related Press Charlie Fox haunts London 1 July 2019, TANK Magazine

Charlie Fox invites you on a tour of the inner workings of his mind with Dracula’s Wedding and My Head is a Haunted House –two simultaneous exhibitions on this summer at Rodeo and Sadie Coles HQ respectively. Though working in different colour schemes, both shows are a compilation of Fox’s favourite artists and their spookiest works, in all...

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Monster Mash-Up: The Art Gallery As Haunted House Related Press Monster Mash-Up: The Art Gallery As Haunted House 29 June 2019, The Quietus

I didn’t get a chance to see My Head Is A Haunted House until about a week and a half after it opened. In this time (and before the opening), I’ve felt like it was omnipresent online. Constant photos of people posing with giant humping soft sculptures, the cover for the accompanying book endlessly whipping through my feed–It’s had a palpable...

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The ones to watch at the first ever Frieze Los Angeles Related Press The ones to watch at the first ever Frieze Los Angeles 13 February 2019, Tatler

February in LA has long been a permanent fixture in the calendars of the world's elite, who use awards season as a welcome excuse to escape the dreary drizzle in Europe and the biting cold on the East Coast. But now there's a new reason to be in Tinseltown this month: the launch of the first ever Frieze Los Angeles.

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Mike Kelley In Video & Audio

Mike Kelley: Kandors 1999 – 2011, Hauser & Wirth Los Angeles Related Video & Audio Mike Kelley: Kandors 1999 – 2011, Hauser & Wirth Los Angeles 22 December 2017, Hauser & Wirth

Mary Clare Stevens, Executive Director, Mike Kelley Foundation of the Arts, talks about the exhibition ' Mike Kelley: Kandors 1999 – 2011 at Hauser & Wirth Los Angeles, 21 October 2017–21 January 2018

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