Museum Brandhorst

Mike Kelley

Mike Kelley, born in Detroit in 1954, is part of the same generation of artists as Robert Gober and Christopher Wool, although his work differs from theirs due to his greater enthusiasm for experimenting with various artistic media. After studying fine arts in Michigan and California, Kelley often collaborated with other artists in works of performance art. At the end of the 1980s, he started using soft toys in his work which were well suited to his socio-critical and often conceptualist approach and which soon brought him international success. The artist died at the age of 57 on January 31, 2012.

The major phases in Kelley’s development are represented in the Brandhorst Collection by impressive works: his early sheets inspired by comics in which he threw a critical light on American myths; installations with soft toys which tease a sinister element out of our all-so-familiar cuddly animals. In more recent multi-media installations, the superficial aesthetics of an underlying threat conjure up a bewildering mood. With the work The Keep (1998), the collection can boast one of Kelley’s major works. It is a reference to a cultural-historical motif (the hut in Henry David Thoreau’s book Walden, Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin, or the refuge used by the Unabomber), adopted to draw attention to events in present-day America seen from an historical perspective.

Mike Kelley | Ghostly Afterimage, 1998 Acrylic and enamel paint on wood 219 x 251 cm Photo: Bayerische StaatsgemäldesammlungenCourtesy of Mike Kelley
Mike Kelley | The Thirteen Seasons (Heavy On The Winter) #3: What`s Limp In 3 D Is Erect In 2 D, 1994 Acrylic on wood158,8 x 101,6 cm Photo: Bayerische StaatsgemäldesammlungenCourtesy of Mike Kelley
Mike Kelley | Kandor 15, 2007 Mixed media with video242,5 x 313 x 219,5 cm Photo: Haydar KoyupinarCourtesy of Mike Kelley and Jablonka Galerie, Berlin
Mike Kelley | Dialog #3, 1991 Blanket, 2 soft toys, audiotape, cassette28 x 96 x 158 cm Photo: Nic TenwiggenhornCourtesy of Mike Kelley and Jablonka Galerie, Berlin

Mike Kelley | Ghostly Afterimage, 1998

Mike Kelley | The Thirteen Seasons (Heavy On The Winter) #3: What`s Limp In 3 D Is Erect In 2 D, 1994

Mike Kelley | Kandor 15, 2007

Mike Kelley | Dialog #3, 1991

Acrylic and enamel paint on wood
219 x 251 cm

Photo: Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen
Courtesy of Mike Kelley
Acrylic on wood
158,8 x 101,6 cm

Photo: Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen
Courtesy of Mike Kelley
Mixed media with video
242,5 x 313 x 219,5 cm

Photo: Haydar Koyupinar
Courtesy of Mike Kelley and Jablonka Galerie, Berlin
Blanket, 2 soft toys, audiotape, cassette
28 x 96 x 158 cm

Photo: Nic Tenwiggenhorn
Courtesy of Mike Kelley and Jablonka Galerie, Berlin