PRINT May 2012

Ann Goldstein

Mike Kelley, Catholic Birdhouse (detail), 1978, two parts, house: painted wood, composite shingles, 22 x 18 1/2 x 18 1/2“; title drawing: ink on paper, 9 1/2 x 6”.


MY MEMORIES OF MIKE KELLEY go back to my early days as a curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. In 1986, I was given oversight of an unprecedented $250,000 purchase fund for emerging and underrepresented California artists, called the El Paso Natural Gas Company Fund for California Art—one of those dream assignments—and Mike was among the eight artists in my first round of selections. Art historian Howard Singerman, who was LA MOCA’s publications editor and very knowledgeable about Mike’s work, advised me on the acquisition. We knew we wanted a group of works from Monkey Island, 1982–83, his pivotal performance and installation of drawings, paintings, sculpture, and objects. The drawings had a strong foundation in language, combining image and text in the powerful black-and-white compositions that coherently structured seemingly improbable,

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