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Mike Kelley’s MoMA PS1 Retrospective Is Overwhelming in the Best Way


10.28.13 Kyle Petreycik

You may want to set aside a few days to view Mike Kelley’s massive MoMA PS1 retrospective, with work filling up every floor of the museum.

The late artist worked in nearly every conceivable medium, from paintings to interactive installations to videos throughout the course of his thirty-five year long career. Nearly an entire floor devoted to the artist’s obsessive depictions of the fictional bottle city of Kandor. Another is dedicated to the stuffed animal works and photographs that the artist has most commonly been associated with, like his Sonic Youth album cover art and collaborations. Exploring this Mike Kelley retrospective is like viewing the work of several artists, all of whom share sensibilities to self-examination of popular culture at large.

A notable work worth spending some time with is Kelley’s City 000, a piece produced as part of the artist’s Kandor series, consisting of a small collection of illuminated plastic objects clustered together and sitting atop a heavy black form. Visitors must first remove their shoes before ascending a small staircase to completely view the work.

Other standouts were the artist’s recreation of each school he had ever attended as well as his “Day is Done,” a massive collection of video recreations based on images found throughout high-school yearbooks.

Born in Detroit, Kelley lived and worked in Los Angeles until his untimely death last year at the age of 57. Kelley on Kelley:

 My entrance into the art world was through the counter-culture, where it was common practice to lift material from mass culture and ‘pervert’ it to reverse or alter its meaning… Mass culture is scrutinized to discover what is hidden, repressed, within it.

Mike Kelley, Oct 13–Feb 2, MoMA PS1, Long Island City, NY (Photos: Kyle Petreycik/ANIMALNewYork)