- 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
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.