Artist Mike Kelley, an innovator of contemporary art, was found dead in his home in South Pasadena, California. The renowned artist has been exhibited in major museums all over the world and leaves behind a vibrant body of work in sculpture, installation, mixed-media, performance, video, writing and multidisciplinary practice. Growing up in Detroit, the self-described “blue-collar anarchist” played noise music with Destroy All Monsters before heading to CalArts for grad school under John Baldessari and Laurie Anderson, alongside Paul McCarthy and Tony Oursler, his future collaborators. From sewn stuffed-animal sculptures that spoke on the state of man, to grand avant-garde musicals, to colorful crystal Kandors-themed installations at the Gagosian dubbed as pioneering examples of “clusterfuck aesthetics” by critic Jerry Saltz, Mike Kelley had furiously resisted all conventions. The 2012 Whitney Biennial was to be his 8th. Sources say that his death was a suicide.
Kelley’s studio statement mourns the artists as “an irresistible force in contemporary art… We cannot believe he is gone. But we know his legacy will continue to touch and challenge anyone who crosses its path. We will miss him. We will keep him with us.” See some of the highlights of his vast body of work below.
Image credit: Mike Kelley, Carmen.
Image credit: Mike Kelley, Kandors.
Image credit: Mike Kelley, PANTS SHITTER & PROUD PS JERK-OFF TOO.
Credit: Mike Kelley, Day is Done musical film trailer.
Image credit: Mike Kelley, Extracurricular Activity Projective Reconstruction #1 (A Domestic Scene).
Image credit: Mike Kelley, Memory Ware series.
Image credit: Mike Kelley, Superman Recites Selections from ‘The Bell Jar’ and Other Works by Sylvia Plath, 1999, 7-19 min, color, sound.
Image credit: Mike Kelley, from Half-a-man.
Image credit: Mike Kelley, Heidi with Paul McCarthy.
Image credit: Mike Kelley, Sonic Youth Dirty album art.