Artweek LA January 2011

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Mike Kelly – Gagaosian Jan 11 2011

Detroit born, LA based artist Mike Kelly has traditionally produced work steeped in controversy. Topical, incisive and peppered with laugh out loud sarcasm, Kelly seems inspired by contemporary themes that continue to permeate his work, celebrity, misogyny, class struggle and American pop culture to name but a few.

A patriarch of the LA (and international) conceptual art ouvre, Kelly utilizes various media to convey his message from sculptures, to performances, paintings, and installations, all accomplished with equal dexterity and quality.

For his latest Gagosian show, he focused on sculpture, installation and video. While the video work more in keeping with his precocious style, assorted glass sculptures were little more than pleasing and ornate, akin to retail store lampshades.

Visually pleasing rather than psychologically and intellectually compelling or underscoring Kelly’s penchant for the subversive, these were more twee hued colorscapes. Anticlimactic in light of the precedents set by chaotic patchwork quilts, sockmonkeys or automated furniture as shown in previous Kelly exhibitions.

Yet despite their inane appearance the glass culpture series, titled, “The Kandors,” apparently have a conceptual dimension, which doesn’t really offer much redemption for their overall boorish dynamic . According to Kelly’s vision, they began in 1999, as representations of Superman’s city of birth, the only remaining part of his home planet, Krypton. In the well-known comic books, Superman saved the miniaturized city in a bottle fed by a tank of atmosphere.Kandor’s sees Kelley create multiple miniature versions of the above, cast in colorful resins and illuminated like reliquaries. First shown as the exhibition “Day Is Done” at Gagosian, New York in 2006, The EAPR video series series compiled from photographs of what Kelley calls “folk performances,” were the high point.

Melding slapstick and satire, the two videos comprising EAPR #34 are based on an image of what appeared to be an amateur stage play, featuring a “royal” male character with his female harem. In one of them, a “King” lords over his harem.

Ultimately for the self proclaimed avant guardist these videos seemed more connected to his trademark kitsch and tasteless style. May he abandon the ornaments and continue to reject tawdry social morays and silently undermine the moral fabric of American culture.

Written by Craig Stephens

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