Mike Kelly: Day is done
22-12-05 Suggested by: Jack of all Trades
Nov 11 - Dec 17, 2005
Opening reception for the artist: Thursday, November 10th, 5 - 8pm
Gagosian Gallery is pleased to announce an exhibition of new work by Mike Kelley. "Day is Done" is Kelley's first New York exhibition since 2002.
"Day is Done" is a feature-length "musical" composed of thirty-two separate video chapters. Each section is a live-action recreation of a photograph of an "extracurricular activity" found in a high school yearbook. Over the years Mike Kelley has collected hundreds of such images and arranged them into rough categories. Most of the imagery is immediately recognizable as standard forms of folk entertainment: plays, follies, theme dress-up days, holiday festivities, religious spectacles, hazing rituals, etc. Such activities serve as carnivalesque disruptions of the normal school schedule, mirroring the function of such events in the broader cultural arena. Many of them, such as Halloween and Christmas-related activities, are secular outgrowths of pagan ritual.
Unlike "Extracurricular Activity Projective Reconstruction #1 (A Domestic Scene)," which is a thirty minute drama based on a single photograph of a stage play, "Day is Done" is multipart with iconography derived from the image files Kelley has labelled such as: religious performances, thugs, dance numbers, hicks, and hillbillies, Halloween and gothic style, satanic imagery, and equestrian events. The artist chose to work with such a diverse set of images in order to force himself to create a longer, more complex, video work somewhat akin to traditional filmic narratives employing montage. Though not a traditional narrative, "Day is Done" employs recurring characters, intimations of simultaneous action, and some semblance of narrative flow.
"Day is Done" will exist in several different forms. The one being shown at Gagosian Gallery is a large-scale video installation consisting of sets and projection screens. Various scenes will be programmed to turn off and on prompting the viewer to follow the action throughout the presentational space. Several scenes will run simultaneously in order to promote the effect of filmic cross-cutting in actual space.
Mike Kelley was born in Detroit, MI in 1954 and currently lives and works in Los Angeles. He is a graduate of the California Institute of the Arts and the University of Michigan. His solo exhibitions include: The Tate Liverpool (2004), Museu D'art Contemporani, Barcelona (1997), Whitney Museum of American Art, New York and Los Angeles County Museum of Art (1993), and the Hirshhorn Museum, Washington, D.C. (1991).
A fully illustrated catalogue will accompany this exhibition. For more information, please contact the gallery.
Some commentaries about the show-work:
So, I needed to see it again.. The first time, it was sensory overload,hard to focus, and I thought it cool..not so much at all the second time. I totally hated the show!
So I wasn't going to Blog about it, instead I was going to write how much I enjoyed Tyler Green's (assist from Ed Winkleman) talk on Burtynsky at the Brooklyn Museum this Sunday. Tyler's talk was an interesting contrast to when I got to hear Ed Burtynsky talk about his show a few weeks ago. By the way guys.. Burtynsky photo's are much more affordable that what Ed told the crowd Sunday.
But back to Kelley.. So..... this morning I read Download MikeKelley.txt yet another feature story by Michael Killeen on Bloomberg News and I realize I will probably never see this show again, and that's fine with me! Does Gagosian pay for all this press?? I don't think this show was anything special. Just a huge amount of glitz, lights, with little meaning or thoughtful message. Why are so many art people writing so much about it?? I'm sure it was a huge amount of work to put it all together, it's big, but many of the pieces weren't even very memorable. I found this blogger who agrees with me! So, I'm a bit sad to read most of the 28 sections have sold from $250,000 to $650,000! What are these people going to do with this over-hyped crap stuff ?? Do they just buy it because it's at Gagosian? And why would a museum/institution waste their money buy any of this? Anyway.. just needed to vent.. and luckily the show closes soon.. So we won't have to read too much more about it!!
Mike Kelley's new installation, Day Is Done
By Jim Lewis
One of the most extraordinary experiences of art I've ever had came a few years ago, when I took a walk through the painting and sculpture galleries of the Museum of Modern Art in New York. I'd once worked there, and the collection was as familiar and as comforting to me as the furniture in my own house. Still, I couldn't help but be impressed, all over again: There was Impressionism, Cubism, abstraction, each unfolding from the last; there was Kandinsky, Malevich, Mondrian; then Abstract Expressionism, Pop, Minimalism, and so on, up through the art of the '80s and '90s. I'm simplifying what was already a somewhat simplified view of history and how it progresses, but there it was, and it was a grand and deluxe experience, a triumph of intelligence and good taste. Until you got to the end.
At the end there was a gallery with this ... thing in the middle. It was series of four garish knitted afghans, which looked like they'd spent the last 20 years collecting schmutz at the bottom of a closet. They were laid out in a row on the polished floor, and on each was a homemade stuffed toy, the sorts of things caring parents make for little children, who chew and drool on them, drag them through the dirt, feed them sodden bits of breakfast cereal, and so on, until they become tattered and foul, indelibly soiled with the grubby disjecta of childhood.
The piece, Untitled (1990), was made by Mike Kelley, and it's difficult to describe how powerful and strange it was. Kelley had foraged the blankets and dolls from the bins of thrift stores and arranged them in their sorry pageant, and the effect was impossibly sad, shabby, and decrepit; but there was also something thrilling about it. Even the hallowed galleries of MoMA couldn't redeem the work; the very force of its abjection seemed to abrogate the gravity of the collection that it capped. I won't say that it disqualified or negated the beauty of all those Picassos and Pollocks, but it certainly threw into question the beliefs on which the museum is predicated: that art is precious and aesthetics is pure, that form is significant and objects can be redemptive. The adults who had originally knitted these things made them out of love, and the children who used them loved them so much they rotted. You stumbled upon this dirty little scene, and you could feel the sacred truths just crumbling.
Kelley, whose most recent show opened recently at the Gagosian Gallery in New York, was the last artist—and by last, I mean both "most recent" and "last ever"—to pull off the great gambit of 20th-century art: He made things that, upon first inspection, you would think had no artistic qualities whatsoever, things that were not and could not possibly be art, let alone significant art. And yet there they were, in a gallery or museum, and after you spent some time with them, you began to think, Yes, of course this is art; and after a little more time, you began to realize that it was very significant art indeed. It now falls to me, and art writers like me, to exercise, for the last time, the great gambit of 20th-century criticism, and explain why.
Kelley lives in L.A. now, and he's very tightly associated with the art world there. But he was born in Detroit, in 1954, and grew up working-class and Catholic, and almost every discussion of his work includes some mention of his background. His class matters because he has a fearless, wiseass sense of humor, an underdog's way of undermining everything without seeming to aggrandize himself. (He was once asked to contribute an interior to a Frank Gehry design for an ad agency. His plan involved cutting line-of-sight holes in the walls between the conference room and the copy room and stenciling enormous reproductions of office-cubicle cartoons—"What part of NO don't you understand?" etc.—on the walls. It was never built.) The Catholicism matters because he's obsessed with the impurity of the human body in a way that you can only really come to if you were taught at a young age that purity was a real possibility. And Detroit matters because it's everything the art world isn't: Midwestern, industrial, down on its luck; and because the city's favorite son, Iggy Pop, was one of Kelley's earliest inspirations and remains the character he most resembles.
This, after all, is a man who once did a series of lumpy, irresolute studies of nondescript refuse called Seventy-four Garbage Drawings and One Bush; who has parodied both feel-good Catholic poster art and feel-bad outlaw underground cartoons; whose work often involves fantastically complex arrays of drawings and objects, which reference the elaborate history of man's attempts to better himself, jumbling Freud and Longinus, Brecht and George Washington, with scatological jokes and plaintive doodles, until the entire course of Western civ. comes out looking sad and stupid, homely and benighted, and yet, for all that, the only history we have. Kelley is a prophet of the art of failure, of rant and embarrassment, of endless self-scrutiny and fetishistic analysis, of charts and typologies and comparisons. (One piece is called Plato's Cave, Rothko's Chapel, Lincoln's Profile, and you'd be surprised at the connections that can be drawn among the three.) And all of it leads to the conclusion that something—everything—is wrong, with art, with the human animus, with the world and all its institutions.
No art is without precedent, and Kelley's has a certain affinity with, for example, the Italian Arte Povera movement, Bruce Nauman's early videos, some lesser-known artists like Paul Thek and Jim Nutt, and the Bad Painting associated with people like Neil Jenney—all from the late '60s and early '70s, when Kelley was in art school. But Kelley's work has a punkish attitude that's all his own, an impious energy that eats away at boundaries that no one else even sees. He has worked, for example, in pretty much every medium known to the visual arts: painting, drawing, sculpture, video, theater, performance, appropriation, installation, photography. He's also written prose and recorded music and, not incidentally, collaborated with at least a dozen of his contemporaries. No other artist I can think of, not even Rauschenberg, has worked in so many different forms with equal success, and without making one of them central.
Of course, he isn't particularly good at any of them, if "good" means "especially skilled, in an obvious way." But so what? Concern with the medium, as such, is one of the great bugaboos of modernism, with its general emphasis on pure painting, pure photography, pure sculpture, and so on. Kelley's work is deeply, deliberately, and joyfully corrupt, and mastery is one of the first things to go.
Still, he knows how to make objects of enormous power, objects that live as objects, and that's what counts. I think I could walk into any collection in the world and spot the Mike Kelley piece immediately (and this despite his many imitators), which is more than I could do with, say, Brice Marden. You can tell the Kelley work because it's the stuff that itches, the stuff that reeks, the stuff that looks like it needs a good bath. (A curator once told me that the museum she worked for had bought one of Kelley's stuffed-animal pieces, only to discover that it was infested with bugs. They called him to ask whether it was OK to fumigate it, or whether the bugs were part of the art. I don't know what his reply was.)
Above all, you can tell the work by its furious and almost celebratory insistence on anatomizing all that is base about the world. There is nothing smug about Kelley, as there is about so many artists with a similarly critical bent; he's never snotty, although he's often very funny. He's a connoisseur of rage and dismay, and if he has his way we're all in it together. "I make art," Kelley once said, "in order to give other people my problems." As a definition of artists' motivation—at least, a partial definition of a certain kind of artist's motivations—it's as good as any I've ever heard; and the art that emerges from it is as brilliant as any being made today.
By Michael Killeen
Dec. 14 (Bloomberg) -- Blasts of visual and audio
information hit you as you enter Mike Kelley's ``Day Is Done''
installation, which has taken over the Gagosian Gallery in
Manhattan's Chelsea neighborhood.
The installation comprises 28 discrete sections. In
``Gospel Rocket,'' the centerpiece is a missile wrapped in gold
robes and resting next to a yellow road sign with flashing red
lights. Videos of dancing churchgoers, also in gold robes, are
projected on screens at eye level around the rocket.
Elsewhere, projection screens hang on chain-link fencing.
There is a wooden runway, multiple stage sets, the wall from a
gym. Bleachers stand open as if for sitting at a rally, but
also, with their seats folded down, are barriers hiding a model
of a caped body sliced through at the waist.
You hear rousing church-revival organ music, and for a
moment somewhere, someone is screaming; then someone is singing.
And look up: There amid the projectors and speakers is a
trussed-up figure of a young man, bound hands to feet, hanging
from the ceiling, seemingly part of a chandelier with painted
angel wings above and a ring of electric candles flickering
under his posterior.
Judging from where Kelley began this project, which he
refers to as a ``musical,'' perhaps this is a hazing ceremony
Pageants, morality plays, festivals and the like are
Kelley's source material for this installation. The Detroit-born
artist, now based in Los Angeles, culled hundreds of photographs
of high-school extracurricular activities from 1960s and 1970s
yearbooks. He restaged some photographs, with an uncanny degree
Then Kelley paired and framed these new and old
photographs. They are hung throughout the gallery near the
videos whose narratives are keyed to the original photos and
channeled through Kelley's imaginative riffs on ritual, popular
culture and the social order. The videos are projected onto
screens amid reconstructed but morphed stage sets.
So what starts out as a ``Singles Mixer,'' for example, has
a story line that twists and turns until one female student, her
face a mask in Kiss-style makeup, calls an Ellie Mae character,
all blond pigtails and pink ribbons, a ``slut!'' Next they are
wrestling on the floor, enthusiastically egged on by their
Goth Girl, Howling
In the section titled ``Black Curtain,'' two videos,
separated by a curtain, are projected. One shows a silent modern
dancer in Martha Graham-esque cowl-like garb, the other, a goth
girl with rhythm, all black clothes, silver chains and heavy
boots, singing, stomping and occasionally giving off a howl.
A lot of territory is covered here, and after a while you
get a sense of the crosscutting effect Kelley is after as the
videos sequence on and off around the cavernous space. Props,
performers, sets and images are changed or fragmented as they
reappear in different videos.
Kelley is a master of projection -- see how natural a
doubled female silhouette looks as it flows onto a billowing,
revolving curtain in the ``Pink Curtain'' segment. This is an
accomplished, technically sophisticated combination of sound,
image and object.
Most of the 28 sections have been sold, for prices ranging
from $250,000 to $650,000 each. When the exhibition closes at
this location, it is expected to travel as a whole to other
sites, possibly to Europe, although no definite plans have been
Each video has its own music, and a two-disk CD of all the
music in the installation is for sale in the lobby. Watch:
Someone will inquire about mounting this on the stage.