Pop Punk Artist Mike Kelley Remembered

It is with great sadness and regret that we announce the untimely death of Mike Kelley,” reports the artists most recent representing gallery, Gegosian. Gegosian further states of the artist; An unorthodox role-model, Kelley was widely acknowledged to be one of the most influential American artists of our time. He was loved and admired by his peers and was a touchstone for a younger generation of artists.

“We’re living in the post-modern age, the death of the avant-garde. So all I can really do now is work with this dominant culture and flay it, rip it apart, reconfigure it, expose it.”

-Mike Kelley


Mr. Kelley’s aesthetic mined the rich and often overlooked history of vernacular art in America and he embraced the confrontational, political attitude of punk, attacking cultural attitudes toward family, religion, sexuality, class, art and education. He produced a vast and provocative repertoire that included symbolic and ritualistic performance pieces, stuffed-animal sculptures, paintings, wall-size drawings, ambitious installations that reconstructed institutional environments and restaged historical events; and extended multi-media collaborations with Paul McCarthy, Tony Oursler, Sonic Youth, Destroy All Monsters and others.

An original and deeply insightful writer and curator, Kelley wrote for art and music journals and organized museum exhibitions such as “The Uncanny” (1993/2004), which incorporated his own work and that of other artists with non-art objects that explored nostalgia, the grotesque, and the unsettling. Kelley’s most recent exhibition at Gagosian Gallery was “Exploded Fortress of Solitude” in London in 2011, which followed related large-scale exhibitions in Los Angeles and New York, beginning with the epic video installation “Day is Done” in 2005. A major retrospective exhibition is being planned for the reopening of the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, later this year, which will travel to the MOCA, Los Angeles in 2014.

One of his longest standing champions, MOCA Chief Curator Paul Schimmel comments, “Mike was an intellectual force of nature, the catalyst for a generation of artists with his performances, installations, sculptures, videos, writings and curatorial work. I think he is arguably one of the key individuals who changed the world’s perception of Los Angeles art.”

Mike Kelley is gone, but he has left us with an extraordinary legacy and a radical oeuvre whose impact and resonance will only intensify with time.