Peder Lund

Mike Kelley is widely considered one of the most influential artists of our time. Originally from a suburb outside of Detroit, Kelley attended the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, before moving to Southern California in 1976 to study at the California Institute of the Arts from which he received an MFA in 1978. The city of Los Angeles became his adopted home and the site of his prolific art practice. In much of his work, Kelley drew from a wide spectrum of high and low culture and was known to scour flea markets for America’s cast-offs and leftovers. Mining the banal objects of everyday life, Kelley elevated these materials to question and dismantle Western conceptions of contemporary art and culture.

Starting out in the late 1970s, Kelley became known for performance and installation based works; he came to prominence in the 1980s with a series of sculptures composed of common craft materials and stuffed animals. His work later widened in scope and physical scale, exemplified by Educational Complex (1995), the Kandors series (1999 – 2011), Extracurricular Activity Projective Reconstruction series (2000 – 2011), and the posthumously completed public work Mobile Homestead (2006 – 2013). These projects invoked a vast range of media and forms, illustrating the artist’s versatility and underscored a number of Kelley’s recurrent themes, such as repressed memory, sexuality, adolescence, class, and Americana, which were central to his artistic praxis. Throughout his career, Kelley also worked on curatorial projects, collaborated with many artists and musicians, and produced a formidable body of critical and creative writing.