Los Angeles based artist Mike Kelley is dead at the age of 57. Originally from Detroit, Kelley attended the California Institute of the Arts. He investigates what he refers to as materialist rituals in his work. Probably best known for his stuffed animal sculptures, these works were mistakenly assumed to be about issues linked to child abuse. Though they were really responses to commodity culture, Kelley went with the public’s incorrect assumptions and began to make work about the presumption of a motivation based on repressed trauma.
Working in a variety of media as well as across the music and visual arts divide, it was important to Kelley that his work was available on multiple levels, from novices to the most sophisticated viewers. His work exemplifies his interest in sublime play and sublime humor. But Kelley is quick to point out that his is a critical humor and creates what he calls “negative joy.” In fact, he felt that the “social function of art is a negative aesthetic.”
Kelley has been extremely influential to both peers and younger artists. One of the most important legacies he leaves behind is explained best by Jerry Saltz. Kelley was a master of “inventing systems and finding artistic syntaxes to create his work.”
He has had major solo exhibitions across the world throughout his career and was in the process of putting together a show for the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam according to his gallery. He will also have work in the upcoming 2012 Whitney Biennial.
Read more about the life of Mike Kelley here.