PRINT May 2012


Mike Kelley, Joseph Supplicates (detail), 2004–2005, mixed media with video projection, 8' 8“ x 8' 8” x 17' 6".

MUCH TOO SOON, Mike Kelley’s extraordinary body of work confronts us as a complete oeuvre. While for decades his art, in its sheer intensity and diversity, seemed to defy the urge to step back and view his career in its entirety, now—in the wake of the artist’s untimely death at the age of fifty-seven this past January 31—it inevitably elicits that very impulse. But how can we begin to assess a practice that is among contemporary art’s most protean, not only in its embrace of disparate forms (drawing, painting, sculpture, film, performance, criticism) but in its range of affect and of address, its transgression and its humor?

Is there a schema that can accommodate the visceral excesses of Kelley’s early performances as well as the haunted delicacy of his miniature cities under glass; the laconic stuffed-animal works as well as the past decade’s elaborate installations—part Vegas casino, part alien laboratory, part high school USA? Such questions will occupy us in years to come, but for now they are perhaps still best approached in a more personal and provisional mode. Artforum invited six of the artist’s friends and colleagues—curator ANN GOLDSTEIN; artists MICHAEL SMITH, TONY OURSLER, PAUL McCARTHY, and JIM SHAW; and artist-musician KIM GORDON—to reflect on Kelley, his life, and his profoundly influential art. Oursler and Shaw’s contributions have been reproduced online. For the rest, pick up the May issue of Artforum.