Raising the Palette* will featured the best culture currently has to offer.
Episode 1: WHY MIKE KELLEY IS IMPORTANT, EVEN THOUGH HE NEVER HUNG OUT WITH KANYE WEST.
Mike Kelley is having a moment. Too bad he’s not alive to witness it. Them’s the breaks of most great artists though—like Basquiat, dead at 27. (Adding insult to injury, Word wants to auto-correct his name to Biscuit—that f**king horse movie that poker scum Tobey Maguire was in.)
Moving on. Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and Robert Johnson—were all also members of the 27 club***, and considering Detroit-born, LA-based multi-media artist Mike Kelley made it to 57 in spite of his unusual, let’s call it temperament, some might call him lucky. Others call him weird. Still more call him prolific. Which doesn’t really mean what people think it does. It kind of means he was really busy and produced a TON of work over the span of his nearly forty year career. So much so that The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA has dedicated the months of June AND July, the BEST months of the year, to exhibiting over 250 of Kelley’s works. Because well, he was prolific, and there’s a lot of it to see.
But, Mike Kelley, the man, the myth, the luminary, couldn’t possibly have a retrospective for nothing, could he? We’re talking about a man who stitched together dirty stuffed animals and called it art– kind of like what we’d expect to find in Miley Cyrus’ bedroom.
Also, we need to keep in mind that we’re talking about a man who NEVER hung out with Kanye West. So, yeah, it’s natural to query how anyone who never rubbed elbows with Kanye or his Kim, could be this important. Like, did Mikey Kelley ever have dinner at Anna Wintour’s house? Or did Riccardo Tisci design Mike Kelley’s Banana Man outfit? We think not. Like, Kanye is so prolific, he owns prolificacy. That’s why he made North West. ALSO, ‘Ye raises the palette– he said so himself. Or wait no, that’s what Kelley used to paint. Silly ‘Ye olde wordsmith.
Still, if you’re asking yourself do I really need to spend 12 dollars to see an exhibit that features spoons found on the bottom of the Detroit River and a giant ball of tinfoil, (no, you don’t, just go Thursday night between 5pm and 8pm and MOCA is FREE!) the answer is yes.
Here are some reasons you should care about “the greatest artist of the 21st century.” Sorry, F**K. That’s Kanye, talking about Kanye. Here are some reasons you should go see Mike Kelley, the Man Who Never Hung Out with Kanye West.
Art in Los Angeles would not be what it is today without Mike Kelley
We’re not going to give you a review of Kelley’s work. It’s too prolific.
Instead, we’re going to ask you to think of him in the context of Jackson Pollock, the painter everyone loves to throw haterade at because they think he just threw paint on a canvas and called it art. And charged people buckets of money for it. Not so. People are always going to be pissy that someone else thought of what they perceive as a simple idea first. Like taking photos of stuffed animals.
But here’s why Pollock was brilliant: his work was a response to photography and motion pictures and the splatter movement across the canvas was his way of keeping painting relevant in regards to the new mediums. Pollock was really the first (or at least first successful) artist to capture motion within a static canvas. The Cubists may have broken down perspective (yay Cubes!)- by giving the viewer more than one perspective at a time (which is physically impossible without drugs), but, BUT Pollock took that idea and made it about movement, so you see the trace of the movement. Looks easy, but it’s not. Like Jazz. You try breathing after playing the saxophone.
Same idea goes for Mike Kelley. He took something simple to challenge art, convention, memory, etc. His work is important. Even if you don’t like it.
Plus, there would be no Miley Cyrus without Mike Kelley. Fact.
Mike Kelley was not molested or abused as a child
He thought he was and was totally obsessed with Repressed Memory Syndrome, a psychological theory that aligns child abuse with dysfunctional behavior, but he was just dysfunctional all on his own. This is a good thing because child abuse is really wrong. And even though Kelley came to the conclusion that he was not molested as a child, this show is all about repressed memory and it forces you to think about how you consume media about children. Kelley himself has said of his work: “I discovered how culturally omnipresent this infatuation with child abuse was.” Totally disturbing. Very relevant, and (sorry), there’s a good chance that if you were molested, but don’t remember, Mike Kelley at MOCA will trigger that memory. Speaking of triggers.
Mike Kelley doesn’t do trigger warnings
And if he was alive he’d probably put together some multi-media sculpture that’s a big FU to the people who want to put trigger warnings on books or life in gen. Cause that’s not the way to go about dealing with your sh*t. We’ve all got sh*t. Mike Kelley had sh*t for sure, but he’s not sugar coating anything. Think of MK as immersive shock therapy and skip the 40 bucks you were going to spend on that sensory deprivation chamber. Spend 20 minutes staring at The Banana Man or Kelley’s video installations, or just about anything in the exhibit, and then do some journaling. Because sometimes what we really need is a swift kick in the ass (GET AWAY FROM US TAYLOR) and a good mind F to get our head on straight.
Mike Kelley did not attend Kim and Kanye’s wedding
If he had he would needed to create many more Deodorized Central Mass with Satellites (1991-99) to cleanse his conscience.
Mike Kelley is on display at The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA from now until July 28th.
*We think this must be one of those instances where Kanye uses “the wrong word, so it goes from being really special to completely retarded.” Or someone at The Guardian doesn’t know how to spell.
**Kanye West DOES NOT CARE about Mike Kelley. Kanye West does not approve this. So we’re going to do it weekly.
***If we’re being technical about “genius,” Kanye should have died 10 years ago. Sorry Yeez. 🙁