b.1954, Detroit, U.S.; d. 2012.
Mike Kelley is widely considered one of the most influential artists of our time. Originally from a suburb outside of Detroit, Kelley attended the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, before moving to Southern California in 1976 to study at the California Institute of the Arts from which he received an MFA in 1978. The city of Los Angeles became his adopted home and the site of his prolific art practice. In much of his work, Kelley drew from a wide spectrum of high and low culture and was known to scour flea markets for America’s cast-offs and leftovers. Mining the banal objects of everyday life, Kelley elevated these materials to question and dismantle Western conceptions of contemporary art and culture.
Starting out in the late 1970s, Kelley became known for performance and installation-based works; he came to prominence in the 1980s with a series of sculptures composed of common craft materials and stuffed animals. His work later widened in scope and physical scale, exemplified by Educational Complex (1995), the Kandors series (1999 – 2011), Extracurricular Activity Projective Reconstruction series (2000 – 2011), and the posthumously completed public work Mobile Homestead (2006 – 2013). These projects invoked a vast range of media and forms, illustrating the artist’s versatility and underscored a number of Kelley’s recurrent themes, such as repressed memory, sexuality, adolescence, class, and Americana, which were central to his artistic praxis. Throughout his career, Kelley also worked on curatorial projects, collaborated with many artists and musicians, and produced a formidable body of critical and creative writing.
Mike Kelley's recent exhibitions include Subharmonic Tangerine Abyss, Hauser & Wirth, Central, Hong Kong (2022); Mike Kelley & Jamian Juliano-Villani, The Ranch, Montauk NY (2022); Timeless Painting, Hauser & Wirth, New York (2019); Day Is Done, The Watari Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo (2018); Fortress of Solitude, NEON / Museum of Cycladic Art, Athens (2017); Framed and Frame, Hauser & Wirth, London (2016); My House. Mike Kelley and Ryan Trecartin, Presentation House Gallery, Vancouver (2015); Mobile Homestead and Goin’ Home. Mike Kelley’s Mobile Homestead Videos and Documentation, Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (2013); Eternity is a Long Time, HangarBicocca, Milan (2013); Mike Kelley. 1954 – 2012, The Watermill Center, New York (2012); Mike Kelley and Rosemarie Trockel. Works from the Michael and Eleonore Stoffel Foundation’, Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich (2011); Exploded Fortress of Solitude, Gagosian Gallery, London (2011); Mike Kelley, Schinkel Pavillon, Berlin (2010); Mike Kelley. Horizontal Tracking Shots, Gagosian Gallery, New York (2009); Mike Kelley, Sammlung Goetz, Munich (2008); and Mike Kelley. Educational Complex Onwards. 1995-2008, WIELS Centre d’Art Contemporain, Brussels. Recent group exhibitions include something new, something old, something desired, Hamburger Kunsthalle, Hamburg (2022); Ludwig Wittgenstein. Photography as analytical practice, Leopold Museum, Vienna (2021); On the razor’s edge, Museo Jumex, Mexico City (2020); Making Knowing: Craft in Art, 1950-2019, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2019); This Brush’s For Hire. Norm Laich and Many, Other Artists, Institute of Contemporary Art Los Angeles, Los Angeles (2018); and 20 Dancers for the XXth Century, Tate Modern, London (2015).
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