[Van AbbeMUSEUM ]


Mike Kelley  

(A selection of works 1985 - 1996 )

5 July - 14 September 1997

Most of the Van Abbe Museum is devoted this summer to the work of the American artist Mike Kelley (Detroit, 1954). Those who are not acquainted with the artistic work of Kelley, a resident of Los Angeles, will maybe remember him from the pop group Sonic Youth whom he worked with for many years. Kelley's art is difficult to categorize. The exhibition of a selection of his works from 1985 to 1996 in the Van Abbe Museum illustrates the extent of the field of interest of this artist.
Mike Kelley's art is a critical statement on society. His artistic works are the opposite to idealized beauty. He takes the side of that which diverges and makes use of deficiency and incompleteness. Doubt and failure are essential parts of his work. Ideas that are sacrosanct are often attacked. Rather than concentrating on a specific field or discipline within the visual arts, this artist explores the limits of art. Kelley is far more interested in the exception rather than the rule. Thus meanings that had appeared fixed to his audience are often destroyed by his works.

Kelley does not want to produce his work from the rational position of an adult artist who presents a problem and then solves that problem in his work. For him the most productive starting point for his work is the attitude of an adolescent, someone who is not yet an adult and attacks adulthood. "I think an adolescent attitude is the attitude of the humorist, like somebody who knows the rules but doesn't see any reason to be involved in them. The adolescent period interests me the most. Modernism usually valorizes childhood, childishness, or insanity - something that is supposedly pre-adult. But then adult art has to get involved in questions of faith and belief, and I don't have any faith or belief, so I don't want to make adult art. I'd rather make adolescent art."

It is obvious that with such an attitude Kelley is also opposed to the things which were presented as definitive during his training as an artist. He rebelled, for example, against abstract expressionism as it was taught at the University of Michigan where he studied. It is not only in the real world but also in the world of the visual arts sacrosanct ideas should be attacked. Kelley vehemently tries to disassociate himself with the categorization that exhibitions of his work unavoidably involve. One period of artistic production is definitively completed before he starts to explore a completely different field.

In his work Kelley does not easily let himself be trapped by limitations either in his choice of subject or the way he works. Depending on what the subject requires, he uses different materials and methods. He buys some parts of his works ready made in shops, some parts he asks other people to make and, of course, he makes things himself. Different as his works are,they have one thing in common: they are never finished. This imperfection in Kelley's entire oeuvre reflects not only the incompleteness of things as they exist in the world but equally illustrates the loss of an ideal.
This exhibition has been organized and circulated by the Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA), Barcelona, Spain.


[Van AbbeMUSEUM ]