He twists common colloquial forms -- like signs, stuffed animals and felt banners -- and infuses them with the dark psychologies and hidden undercurrents (sexual, metaphysical, and otherwise) of middle-class American culture, assaulting everything that society holds dear. From his first... [more]
He twists common colloquial forms -- like signs, stuffed animals and felt banners -- and infuses them with the dark psychologies and hidden undercurrents (sexual, metaphysical, and otherwise) of middle-class American culture, assaulting everything that society holds dear. From his first rambling performances in the early 1980s, he has appealed to a cult audience because his work is too complex, aggressive, and willfully contradictory to be considered mainstream. Yet in the early '90s, his soft sculptures made from filthy thrift store animals garnered international art world attention, landing him a 1993 exhibition at the Whitney Museum. As critic Michael Duncan wrote, "His work since the Whitney show has turned his personal history inside out, with a kind of hyper-Freudian investigation of the institutions and authority figures responsible for molding him as an artist."
For example, his 1995 "Entryway (Genealogical Chart)" takes the familiar welcome sign that announces local clubs and civic groups, and irreverently reconstructs its meaning and psychology by interspersing plaques from the local Elks and Rotary clubs with the logo for the "Anti-Christ Fan Club," and another emblem containing a rifle, an electric guitar, and a marijuana pipe.
At one of Kelley's exhibits, the only entrance to the room where his art hung consisted of a low opening situated under a painting on an exterior wall; in order to enter the room, visitors had to slither on their stomachs through the narrow portal. Thus humiliated, they were then confronted with a bizarre chamber of mixed metaphors. Solid-color banners hung with mock-alchemical titles that refer to the four human races.
Kelley's mischief-making is further exemplified in the "Poetics Project" (1977-1997), his recent collaboration with fellow Irish bad-boy artist, Tony Oursler. In this mock rockumentary installation, the team commemorated The Poetics, a short-lived band formed by the artists during their days at Cal Arts. Upon closer inspection, however, the viewer realizes that all the artifacts were in fact constructed in 1997 and 1998. As Kelley says, "If you don't create your own history, someone else will." [show less]
Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions (LACE) distinguishes itself by serving as a laboratory for open, artistic experimentation and creative expression, where artists—including under- represented... / read more