Mike Kelley Was No Nelly

American artist Mike Kelley (October 27, 1954 – January 31, 2012) was born in Wayne, Michigan, (a suburb of Detroit). Kelley worked in performance, music, sculpture and installation art, mining the American vernacular culture to develop what has been described as ‘an aesthetics of delinquency’. In his younger days he was a member of a noise band ‘Destroy All Monsters‘.

Kelley graduated from the University of Michigan in 1976 and moved to Los Angeles, California where he undertook a Master of Fine Arts at the California Institute of the Arts. One of his teachers at the Institute was John Baldessari.

On January 31, 2012, Kelley was found dead from an apparent suicide at his home in South Pasadena, California.

  • The above images, all ‘Untitled’ (1990) [from a MOMA, New York collection] use ‘found objects’, which include crocheted rugs, and abstract patterned ‘afghans’; hand-sewn dolls and stuffed animals. Kelley claimed that the materials used were not meant to suggest childhood comforts, but were chosen instead for their formal elements and patterns.

‘There was a general tendency amongst a number of New York artists at that time to try to capture the look of the brand new manufactured object’, Kelley said, ‘so I started collecting things that were obviously handmade and that weren’t made to be sold.

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