Critics’ Picks

Mary Reid Kelley and Patrick Kelley, The Thong of Dionysus, 2015, HD video, black and white, sound, 9 minutes 27 seconds.


Mary Reid Kelley

Arratia Beer
Potsdamer Str. 87
March 12–April 16

Like a lot of artists of late, Mary Reid Kelley’s practice is essentially writing-based. In “The Minotaur Trilogy,” 2013–15, the series of videos made in collaboration with husband Patrick Kelley that comprises the core of this exhibition, the endearingly nerdy Reid Kelley plays all the characters in a black-and-white cartoon poets’ theater straight out of Ancient Greece, spouting verse boldly—and cleverly—penned in heroic couplets. She’s selected as her subject the half-man, half-bull figure from Greek mythology that has been called upon as muse by artists throughout the ages, most memorably, perhaps, by Pablo Picasso, who went through an entire Minotaur phase—drawn by what he described as the inherent melancholy of the figure. It is fitting, then, that Reid Kelley uses the Minotaur as a vehicle for putting forth her notion of a Dionysian writing.

She deploys a stark palette for the heavily stylized sets and costumes, with nearly every form framed by exaggeratedly thick black lines. With cameos by Ariadne, Venus, and Priapus, among others, “The Minotaur Trilogy” can be thought of as a hip, funny, and ultramodern deconstruction of Ovid’s greatest hits. In a side room, Reid Kelley has installed a photographic portrait gallery of many of the progenitors of Dionysian writing—among them Charles Baudelaire, Jorge Luis Borges, Edgar Allan Poe, Euripides, and Lil’ Kim—in sculpted renderings that call to mind the distortions of those on-the-spot caricatures hawked to tourists by street artists, an aesthetic that melds well with the freak-show theatrics of the artist’s videos.