Mike Kelley’s Fuck Room

April 4, 2014 | Marina Galperina

We loved the Mike Kelley retrospective at MoMA PS1 last year, and now that it’s moved to MOCA Geffen in Los Angeles, it appears that we’ve missed out on one dirty detail. This is Mike Kelley’s Chinatown Wishing Well. Carolina Miranda writes:

It’s a lot to absorb. But while you’re at it, don’t forget to take a peek under and inside many of his pieces, since they often seem to contain little surprises. Under the architectural models, you’ll find a mattress; a pink dresser hides books about sex and a packet of birth control pills; and inside the “Wishing Well” is a mattress, a box of Kleenex, some candles and tub of Vaseline. (This latter space he once described as a “crawl space/fuck room.”)

All of it certainly gets at aspects of the forbidden he often explored in his work. But they also serve as a reminder that if you’re just looking at the literal surface of his pieces, you’re missing a good chunk of the story.

Mike Kelley mentions the “crawl space/fuck room” in Mike Kelley: Minor Histories–Statements, Conversations, Proposals:

Part of my admiration for such coloration is the murky unspecific “space” it produces. I have recognized and appreciated this kind of space in paintings that span art history — from the obscure, muddy backgrounds in Rembrandt’s paintings, to the primordial goo space of 1940s biomorphic abstraction. Such space has an erotic appeal for me; it is the confused “nothing” space of presexual consciousness.

This attraction accounts, partially at least, for my interest in the Chinatown wishing well. During the last forty years, Chinatown has slowly ceased to be a popular tourist attraction. Much of it is now dingy and run down, and the wishing well is no longer verdant. In a vain attempt to keep it looking bright and festive, however, local shop owners have taken to spray-painting colored polka dots on it. Absorbed by the rough gray concrete, this pigment has created a strange uniformity of color value — an effect accentuated by years of exposure to bleaching by the sun, and by layers of accumulated smog and dust. As in the tinted photo postcards described earlier, the spot of spray-painted color do not follow the articulation of forms within the sculpture. They have been applied in a haphazard manner that essentially camouflages the form of the sculpture. This produces an optical effect of great confusion. It is hard to read the sculpture because this busy surface decoration adds visual complexity to an already overly complicated and ambiguous form. I would describe this effect of visual confusion as ‘orgasmic.’ In my reconstructed version of the wishing well, I have added a crawl space/fuck room outfitted with a mattress, jars of lubricant, and sexy candles. This addition is meant to literalize the erotic charge that I propose its ambiguous spatiality and murky coloration creates in the viewer.

Sexy. (Image: MocaTV)