Pioneering Artist Mike Kelley Has Died at 58
Mike Kelley, one of the most critically acclaimed artists of his generation, has died at the age of 58. According to several sources close to the artist that The Observerhas spoken with the cause of death was suicide.
The artist had recently been selected for the 2012 Whitney Biennial, an exhibition that he has participated in seven times in the past. He has had major one-person exhibitions at the Whitney Museum, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Louvre, MUMOK, Vienna, and numerous other museums.
Mr. Kelley’s work spanned across numerous mediums and source materials, encompassing sculptures made of knitted stuffed animals (which provided the cover art for Sonic Youth’s 1992Dirty album) to banners emblazoned with various phrases (“PANTS SHITTER & PROUD PS JERK-OFF TOO,” memorably) to large-scale installations inspired by the city of Kandor, the birthplace of Superman.
Mr. Kelley was born in 1954 in Detroit (he described himself as a “blue-collar anarchist”), and his childhood there provided material for many of his works. In 1974, he founded the band Destroy All Monsters with Cary Loren, Niagara (Loren’s then-girlfriend) and Jim Shaw. They made noisy, feedback drenched-music that was influenced by the other local bands at the time, The Stooges and the MC5. Destroy All Monsters was recently the subject of two retrospectives, at the Prism Gallery in Los Angeles and at the Boston University Art Gallery. Mr. Kelley left the band in 1976, to attend graduate school at CalArts.
Mr. Kelley showed at New York’s Metro Pictures Gallery for two decades, from the early 1980s until the early 2000s, when he began showing with Gagosian. Reviewing his 1988 show at Metro Pictures, critic Peter Schjeldahl wrote, “He’s an artist’s artist for those artists–now in the making–who will matter to us in the ’90s.”