Gagosian Gallery is pleased to present an exhibition of new large-scale sculptures and videos by Mike Kelley. This is Kelley’s first exhibition with the gallery in Los Angeles.
Kelley has made nostalgia, memory, and repression in everyday life the topics of his idiosyncratic sculptures, performances, paintings, and installations, which conflate vernacular sources and high modernist aesthetics. A veteran of the Los Angeles conceptual art scene, Kelley uses deconstructive strategies in order to challenge the established norms of contemporary culture, both high and low.
In the current exhibition, Kelley expands on previous major projects—the Kandor series and Extracurricular Activity Projective Reconstruction (EAPR)—combining them into one. In doing so, he breaks with his own artistic conventions, enjoying both the coherences and contradictions produced. The exhibition also includes other sculptures that utilize residual elements from the making of the Kandors as well as domestic objects, from ceramic figurines to coffee pots, which provide moments of humor and charm throughout the installation.
The Kandors, begun in 1999, are representations of Superman’s city of birth, the only remaining part of his home planet, Krypton. In the well-known comic books, Superman saved the miniaturized city in a bottle fed by a tank of atmosphere. Kandor’s depiction in these narratives is inconsistent and fragmentary, prompting Kelley to create multiple versions of it, cast in colorful resins and illuminated like reliquaries. Kandor 10, a yellow city housed in a hand-blown, pink glass bottle, is a grouping of tall skyscrapers situated within a full-scale rock grotto; Kandor 12, constructed in off-white resin and evocative of a group of chess pawns, or minarets, is encased in a shadowy brown bottle, which sits on a platform resembling a Greek column positioned in front of a chest of drawers and an illuminated translucent green wall.
The EAPR video seriesseries—first shown as the exhibition “Day Is Done” at Gagosian, New York in 2006—stems from photographs of what Kelley calls “folk performances”—common, often carnivalesque, activities documented in school yearbooks, local newspapers, or home snapshots. The two videos comprising EAPR #34 are based on an image of what appeared to be an amateur stage play, featuring a “royal” male character with his female harem. In one of them, a “King” lords over his harem. In the other, a group of “Queens” demean a male servant. EAPR #35 features a cast of gnome-like characters who shamble around aimlessly in a cell. The videos are presented with the sets in which they were shot. Kelley has described the EAPR videos as defensive shields against the gaps or “repressed trauma” in his Educational Complex (1995), a model of his childhood home and every school he ever attended, merged into one structure.
Mike Kelley was born in Detroit, Michigan in 1954, he lives and works in Los Angeles. He studied at the California Institute of the Arts and the University of Michigan. Major solo exhibitions include "Catholic Tastes," Whitney Museum of American Art, New York and Los Angeles County Museum of Art (1993); "Mike Kelley," Museu d'art Contemporani, Barcelona (1997); "Framed and Framed, Test Room, Sublevel," MAGASIN, Grenoble (1999); "The Uncanny," Tate Liverpool and Museum Moderne Kunst Stiftung Ludwig, Vienna (2004); "Profondeurs Vertes," Musée du Louvre (2006); and "Educational Complex Onwards: 1995-2008," WIELS Centre d'Art Contemporain (2008).