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Mike Kelley

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Interview with Mike Kelley, 2006 July 27

Mike Kelley is an installation, performance, and video artist who lives and works in Los Angeles. As a graduate student at the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) between the years of 1976 and 1978, he was exposed to the feminist aesthetic and attitude that had flourished there in the early 1970s under the leadership of Judy Chicago and Miriam Schapiro. Though Kelley does not consider his work to be directly influenced by the styles and strategies of feminist art, he does cite its performative and cooperative aspects, its adoption of traditionally feminine craft materials, and its attention to social, sexual, and psychological issues as important for his own growth as an artist.

Sculptural installations that incorporate used stuffed animals in odd, conjoined arrangements are perhaps Kelley’s most well known works. These animal sculptures have often struck viewers as unsettling and somehow both personal and repellent, reactions that the artist has spent much time exploring and, at times, consciously exploiting. Other works, such as the video/installation Day is Done (2005), present a panoply of popular culture visual markers; inDay is Done these relate to the extracurricular activities associated with high school.

Kelley’s mode is often cross-disciplinary. As a young man in Detroit he played in the rock band Destroy All Monsters; musical collaborations and the punk sub-culture continue to inform his aesthetic. His writing, a substantial component of his oeuvre, ranges from art criticism to psychological musings to performative texts.

Further Reading

Kelley, Mike. The Uncanny. Köln; London: Walther König, 2004.

Kelley, Mike, A. A. Bronson, and John C. Welchman. Interviews, Conversations, and Chit-Chat, 1986-2004. Zurich; New York, NY: JRP/Ringier; Dijon: Les presses du réel; Distributed by D.A.P./Distributed Art Publishers, 2005.

Kelley, Mike, and Anne Pontégnie. Mike Kelley: Educational Complex Onwards 1995-2008. Zurich; New York: JRP/Ringier; Distributed by D.A.P. /Distributed Art Publishers, 2009.

Kelley, Mike, and John C. Welchman. Day is Done. New York, N.Y.: Gagosian Gallery, 2007.

———. Foul Perfection: Essays and Criticism. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2003.

Sussman, Elisabeth, Mike Kelley, and Richard Armstrong. Mike Kelley: Catholic Tastes. New York: Whitney Museum of American Art; Distributed by H.N. Abrams, 1993.