Mike Kelley: Musician and mixed-media artist
Friday 03 February 2012
Mike Kelley, who died on or around 31 January, was an artist and musician who became a major figure in the US art world. His work involved found objects, textile banners, drawings, assemblage, collage, performance and video. He was found dead at his home in South Pasadena, near Los Angeles, and appeared to have taken his own life. A friend told investigators that Kelley had been depressed because he had recently broken up with his girlfriend, but no note was found.
Born in Wayne, a suburb of Detroit, on 27 October 1954, Kelley co-founded the band Destroy All Monsters in 1974. They became known for their mixture of punkish elements, heavy rock, noise experiments and performance art.
He left the band in 1978 to attend California Institute of the Arts, where he became a student of the conceptual artist John Baldessari. He began working on a series of projects in which he explored works with loose poetic themes, such as The Sublime, Monkey Island and Plato's Cave, Rothko's Chapel and Lincoln's Profile, using different media such as drawing, painting, sculpture, performance and writing.
Kelley began to gain recognition outside Los Angeles in the mid-1980s with the sculptural objects and installations from the series Half-a-Man and went on to exhibit in galleries and museums worldwide. The band Sonic Youth were fans of Kelley and featured his work on the cover and booklet of their 1992 album Dirty. The Whitney Museum in New York City held a major retrospective of his work in 1994, and his work will be included in the forthcoming Whitney Biennial.
Stephanie Barron, senior curator of modern art at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, said, "Kelley's work in the 1980s was part of how one defined the LA arts scene. He had a remarkable ability to fuse distinction between fine and popular art in ways that managed to perturb our sense of decorum. He was always breaking boundaries and challenging convention. "Some of his room-sized, full-gallery sized extravaganzas are truly impressive."
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