Born 1954 Detroit. Lives and works in Los Angeles
Mike Kelley’s work frequently involves stuffed animals, textile banners and carpets, and his output also includes drawings, objects, assemblage, collage, performance and video. His sculpture ‘Frankenstein’ is one of his most important works. It consists of a prone torso constructed of numerous stuffed soft toys. What appears to be a head lies by it side, made from the same elements. Alongside it sits a sewing basket apparently containing the monster makers’ equipment. The photographs Extracurricular Activity Projective Reconstruction shown in Unholy Truths are part of Mike Kelley’s major project Day is Done, a feature-length ‘musical’ composed of thirty-two separate video chapters. Each section is a live-action recreation of a photograph of an “extracurricular activity” found in a high school yearbook. Over the years Mike Kelley has collected hundreds of such images and arranged them into rough categories. Most of the imagery is immediately recognizable as standard forms of folk entertainment: plays, follies, theme dress-up days, holiday festivities, religious spectacles, etc. Such activities serve as carnivalesque disruptions of the normal school schedule, mirroring the function of such events in the broader cultural arena. Many of them, such as Halloween and Christmas-related activities, are secular outgrowths of pagan ritual. Day is Done is multipart with iconography derived from the image files Mike Kelley has labelled such as: religious performances, thugs, dance numbers, hicks, and hillbillies, Halloween and Gothic style, satanic imagery, and equestrian events. The artist chose to work with such a diverse set of images in order to force himself to create a longer, more complex, video work somewhat akin to traditional filmic narratives employing montage. Though not a traditional narrative, Day is Done employs recurring characters, intimations of simultaneous action, and some semblance of narrative flow.