A museum in the memory of the artist Mike Kelley sponsored by Artangel has been given the go ahead as a permanent memorial to his art and lives work. It will take the form of a replica of a suburban ranch home, similar to the one he grew up in.
The project, Mobile Homestead, had been in the planning stages for several years, but was put on hold after his death. The Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit alongside the UK’s Artangel and the Swiss Luma Foundation, announced the construction of the full scale home which will begin in June behind the museum. It’s expected to open in early 2013. James Lingwood, a co-director of Artangel who had planned the home with artist, said that Mr Kelley had approved almost all aspects of the project and signed contracts for its construction before he died. ‘Fortunately, enough was shared that none of us are feeling that we have to invent very much here’, he said. He also noted that ‘Mike had an uneasy, conflicted relationship to lots of situations — not least his native city of Detroit’ and that ‘Mobile Homestead was conceived to embody this unease in a characteristically complex and robust way.’
In 2005, Mike Kelley was approached by the UK-based Artangel organization, which commissions and produces site-specific artwork, to propose what would be their first commission in the United States. In response, Kelley suggested that he build a replica of his childhood home in the Detroit suburb of Westland that would be repositioned in the city of Detroit and utilized as a community gallery. While the facade of the house would be removable and “street legal” so that it could be driven around the Detroit area to provide various sorts of public services, a complex of “secret” tunnels and rooms would be built beneath the structure at its “home” on the grounds of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Detroit (MOCAD), and used for private activities organized by the artist.
Kelley’s aesthetic mined the rich and often overlooked history of vernacular art in America and he embraced the confrontational, political attitude of punk, attacking cultural attitudes toward family, religion, sexuality, class, art and education. He produced a vast and provocative repertoire that included symbolic and ritualistic performance pieces, stuffed-animal sculptures, paintings, wall-size drawings, ambitious installations that reconstructed institutional environments and restaged historical events; and extended multi-media collaborations with Paul McCarthy, Tony Oursler, Sonic Youth, Destroy All Monsters and others. An original and deeply insightful writer and curator, Kelley wrote for art and music journals and organized museum exhibitions such as “The Uncanny” (1993/2004), which incorporated his own work and that of other artists with non-art objects that explored nostalgia, the grotesque, and the unsettling. Kelley’s most recent exhibition at Gagosian Gallery was “Exploded Fortress of Solitude” in London in 2011, which followed related large-scale exhibitions in Los Angeles and New York, beginning with the epic video installation “Day is Done” in 2005. A major retrospective exhibition is being planned for the reopening of the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, later this year, which will travel to the MOCA, Los Angeles in 2014.
One of his longest standing champions, MOCA Chief Curator Paul Schimmel comments, “Mike was an intellectual force of nature, the catalyst for a generation of artists with his performances, installations, sculptures, videos, writings and curatorial work. I think he is arguably one of the key individuals who changed the world’s perception of Los Angeles art.”
Mike Kelley is gone, but he has left us with an extraordinary legacy and a radical oeuvre whose impact and resonance will only intensify with time.
Kelley was born in Detroit, Michigan in 1954. He studied at the California Institute of the Arts and the University of Michigan. Major solo exhibitions include “Catholic Tastes,” Whitney Museum of American Art, New York and Los Angeles County Museum of Art (1993); “Mike Kelley,” Museu d’art Contemporani, Barcelona (1997); “Framed and Framed, Test Room, Sublevel,” MAGASIN, Grenoble (1999); “The Uncanny,” Tate Liverpool and Museum Moderne Kunst Stiftung Ludwig, Vienna (2004); “Profondeurs Vertes,” Musée du Louvre (2006); and “Educational Complex Onwards: 1995-2008,” WIELS Centre d’Art Contemporain (2008). He died in Los Angeles in 2012.