Mike Kelley
USA, 1954
USA, 2012
Born in Wayne, a suburb of Detroit, Mike Kelley began studying art at the University of Michigan in 1972. A few years later, he moved to California to continue his studies at CalArts. Whereas in Michigan he had followed the teachings of Hans Hofmann in the Abstract Expressionist tradition, his arrival in California brought him into contact with Conceptual art thanks to his professors David Askevold, John Baldessari, Laurie Anderson and Douglas Huebler. He took from both sources to construct the foundations of his later work. He embraced automatism and irrationality in place of enlightened reason, but he also integrated Conceptual aspects into his work. Furthermore, Mike Kelley’s interest in the late-sixties underground music scene cannot go unmentioned. In Detroit, he was part of the anti-rock band Destroy all Monsters along with members of The Stooges and MC5. In California, he formed the band The Poetics with the artist Tony Oursler. Starting with his first performance piece in 1979, he tried to dissect the foundations of western society by continuously questioning notions of class and gender. He had his first solo exhibition at Metro Pictures in New York in 1982. In 1985, he began working on the piece Plato’s Cave, Rothko’s Chapel, Lincoln’s Profile. The first version was a site-specific piece on a pier below the Brooklyn Bridge. In 1986, he presented it as a performance at MIT in Massachusetts with live music by Sonic Youth. In 1997, he turned the piece into an independent, stand-alone artwork. Like all of his work, the piece grew out of a critique of eighties consumer culture, tearing down the references to the male hero and founder of American political culture while simultaneously attacking the mystification of Abstract Expressionism. His ideological critique of Plato’s philosophy is delivered to an active, performative audience in an ironic self-portrait that reveals how the historical discourse relates to the relationships between power and artistic representation of his time. Highlights of his career include his participation in the Whitney Biennial (in 1985, 1987, 1989, 1991, 1993, 1995, 2002 and 2012), the Venice Biennale (in 1988 and 1995), Documenta 9 and 10 (1992 and 1997, respectively) and the Sculpture Projects Münster (2007).
Manuel Segade