Tatty nostalgia. Mike Kelley's retrospective at the Stedelijk

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Bring me home, please

Janitorial Banneral.jpg
Janitorial Banner, 1984

The press release for the exhibition states that Mike Kelley is widely acknowledged as an artist who defined his era. Meanwhile, an article in the LA Times says that he is an artist few Dutch knew. Well, thank you LA Times, i feel less lonely with my crass ignorance.

Mike Kelley used found objects, textile banners, drawings, assemblage, collage, performance and video to comment on high and pop culture, youthful rebellion and American society in general.

There are stuffed toys quietly seating around a rug as if they were having a picnic. Handmade dolls have been dismembered and used to create a wall composition. There's also a banana man, colour exercises based on asinine adult humour magazines, bird houses of various architecture styles, etc. Which sounds cheerful, except it's not. It's nostalgia, but a nostalgia that's a bit dirty and bedraggled.

The exhibition was programmed in collaboration with the artist as a thematic, mid-career survey, but everything changed when Kelley committed suicide in January 2012 . The show is now a retrospective, with a more chronological shade.

I told you it wasn't too cheerful. But it is a bold, brilliant and flamboyant show. The retrospective was for me an introduction to Kelley's work and I definitely recommend that you brave the queue to enter the Stedelijk (well, it wasn't very smart of me to go there on a Sunday afternoon after all) and spit the 17.50 euros to get an entrance ticket.

Estral Star #3, 1989

Ah. . . . Youth!, 1991

Empathy Displacement, 1990. Photo Lost Painters

Mike Kelley, Naked Majas (Bettelheim's Genital), 2008-2009

Photo of the opening at the Stedelijk museum. ©Reinier RVDA for Stedelijk

Photo of the opening at the Stedelijk museum. ©Reinier RVDA for Stedelijk

Photograph: Evert Elzinga/AFP/Getty

Photo of the opening at the Stedelijk museum. ©Reinier RVDA for Stedelijk

Nostalgic Depiction of Childhood, 1990

View of one of the exhibition rooms

Figure II (Hair), 1989

Banana Man Costume, 1981, Collection and photo courtesy Mike Kelley Foundation for the Arts_original.jpg
Mike Kelley, Banana Man Costume, 1981

Arena #7 (Bears), 1990

More Love Hours Than Can Ever Be Repaid and The Wages Of Sin, 1987

0Switching Marys, 2004-2005, Collectie Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam. Photo Fredirk Nilsen, courtesy Mike Kelley Foundation for the Arts_original.jpg
Switching Marys, 2004-2005

Kissing Kidneys, 1989

of the Animals, Animal Self, 1987, 2 Parts glued felt, 244 x 183 cms, Malmö Konsthall_original.jpg
Animal Self and Friend of Animal, 1987

Dancing the Quadrille (from the Reconstructed History Series), 1989

Photo: Gert Jan van Rooij


Photo: I Am Expat

The Mike Kelley retrospective remains open until 1st April at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam. The show will then travel to the Centre Pompidou, Paris, MoMA PS1, New York, and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles.

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