Mike Kelley: The most important American artist you've never heard of

 

He is one of the most influential American artists of the past 30 years but is almost unknown in the UK.

Now the Tate is attempting to fill a gap in the British public's cultural knowledge with an exhibition devoted to punk-inspired artist Mike Kelley, in advance of the first anniversary of his suicide. Tate Modern is to display some of his video work in the Tanks, the new gallery space dedicated to live and performance art this weekend.

Stuart Comer, film curator at Tate Modern, said: "This is a tribute to him and it is about marking his importance and raising awareness of his work. He was, without question, one of the defining artists of his generation."

While the exhibition focuses on his video installations, Kelley worked in many different mediums, and was known as a pioneer of a movement called "abject art", what ArtInfo described as "highlighting the irrational and the repulsive".

His works included complex sculptures and installations, paintings, photography and performance art and drew on influences from folk, comics and spiritualisms to pop psychology, punk and psychedelia.

Mr Comer said: "Amongst artists he was enormously influential. He was a dominant presence in Los Angeles during the 1990s. London is the only major city in the art world where he does not seem to have a major status."

While he has been shown in the UK, particularly at the ICA, "for whatever reason he has had a different status over here," Mr Comer added. His work may be familiar to Sonic Youth fans as he created the artwork for the 1992 album Dirty.

Mr Kelley grew up in Detroit, and was heavily involved in the punk scene, forming Destroy All Monsters in the early 1970s. He left the band to study at the California Institute of the Arts. He came to prominence in the US with shows at the Whitney and LACMA and his reputation grew throughout the 1990s and after the turn of the century.

Paul Schimmel, the former chief curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art in LA, told the Los Angeles Times: "LA would not have become a great international capital of contemporary art without Mike Kelley."

Kelley was found dead at his home in Los Angeles in February this year, at the age of 57. Mr Comer said: "His death took everybody by surprise and it affected people heavily. There was an incredible memorial by his studio. I haven't experienced that level of grief in the art world for some time."

Mike Kelley: Portrait of the artist

Artwork for Sonic Youth album Dirty

Kelley was an old friend of Sonic Youth's Kim Gordon, and his knitted creatures featured on the cover of the band's 1992 album.

More Love Hours Than Can Ever Be Repaid

The 1987 wall hanging, with stuffed toys and blankets on a canvas, became a signature work.

Reversible Cross

Kelley's sculpture installation of a double-sided felt cross, was created in 1989

Exploded Fortress of Solitude

The 2011 piece, inspired by Superman comics, was part of the Kandors series started in 1999, with small-scale depictions of the superhero's birthplace Kandor.

The Banana Man

The video work, part of the Tate's tribute, saw Kelley pose as the character of a kids' TV show he had never seen. This came the same year as Monkey Island.

Arts and Entertainment
There has been a boom in ticket sales for female comics, according to an industry survey
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Burr remains the baker to beat on the Great British Bake Off
tvRichard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Arts and Entertainment
Kristen Scott Thomas in Electra at the Old Vic
theatreReview: Kristin Scott Thomas is magnificent in a five-star performance of ‘Electra’
Arts and Entertainment
Swiss guards stand in the Sistine Chapel, which is to be lit, and protected, by 7,000 LEDs
artSistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Hewer, Lord Alan Sugar, Karren Brady are returning for The Apprentice series 10

TV
Arts and Entertainment
There has been a boom in ticket sales for female comics, according to an industry survey

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
Angelina Jolie and Winona Ryder star in 'Girl, Interrupted'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
From left to right: Ed Stoppard as Brian Epstein, Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Elliott Cowan as George Martin in 'Cilla'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Thomas Pynchon in 1955, left, and Reese Witherspoon and Joaquin Phoenix in Paul Thomas Anderson's adaptation of his novel, Inherent Vice

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Singer Nicole Scherzinger will join the cast of Cats

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Fans were left surprised by the death on Sunday night's season 26 premiere

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Watson has become the latest target of the 4Chan nude hacking scandal

film
Arts and Entertainment
Lady Mary goes hunting with suitor Lord Gillingham

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Dunne, played by Ben Affleck, finds himself at the centre of a media storm when his wife is reported missing and assumed dead

film
Arts and Entertainment
Lindsay Lohan made her West End debut earlier this week in 'Speed-the-Plow'

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Artist Nathan Sawaya stands with his sculpture 'Yellow' at the Art of Brick Exhibition

art
Arts and Entertainment
'Strictly Come Dancing' attracted 6.53 million viewers on Friday
tv
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant plays Detective Emmett Carver in the US version on Broadchurch

tv
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor goes undercover at Coal Hill School in 'The Caretaker'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Ni , Rock of Rah, Vanuatu: The Ni live on one of the smallest islands of Vanuatu; Nelson flew five hours from Sydney to capture the 'isolation forged by their remoteness'
photographyJimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style
Arts and Entertainment
David Byrne
musicDavid Byrne describes how the notorious First Lady's high life dazzled him out of a career low
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

    Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

    A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
    Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

    Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

    The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
    An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

    An app for the amorous

    Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
    Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

    Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

    Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
    Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

    Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

    After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
    She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

    She's having a laugh

    Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
    Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

    Let there be light

    Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
    Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

    Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

    Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
    Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

    A look to the future

    It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
    The 10 best bedspreads

    The 10 best bedspreads

    Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
    Arsenal vs Galatasaray: Five things we learnt from the Emirates

    Arsenal vs Galatasaray

    Five things we learnt from the Gunners' Champions League victory at the Emirates
    Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

    Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

    This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
    Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

    The children orphaned by Ebola...

    ... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
    Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

    Are censors pandering to homophobia?

    US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
    The magic of roundabouts

    Lords of the rings

    Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?