Reverse Researching Mike Kelley


“Ahh…Youth!,” 1991/2008, set of eight Cibachrome photographs, 19 5/8 x 12 7/8 inches each (Mike Kelley Foundation for the Arts / The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA)

As part of my Research as Creative Practice course this semester, I’ll be doing an exercise on a piece by Mike Kelley, titled “Ahh… Youth!” where I will examine the image and title and consider what I think are the elements and factors of the work. Before researching it. So, list, ahoy!

  • Stuffed Animals
  • Portrait– Self Portrait?
  • Bear
  • Bunny
  • Monkey
  • Bee
  • Clown?
  • Alien?
  • Crochet
  • Knit
  • Stuffed
  • Sew
  • Born
  • Old
  • Loved
  • Abused
  • Memories
  • Nostalgia
  • Childhood
  • Innocence
  • Dirty
  • Smelly
  • Thrift Store
  • The Artist Himself?
  • Mug Shot
  • Prison
  • Crime
  • Witness
  • Weird
  • Color as Indicator
  • Reminiscing

That wasn’t so bad. Now, here is what I read about Kelley:

  • American Artist, Born in 1954, Died in 2012
  • From Michigan (Represent!)
  • Used found objects, photography, installation, video, painting, drawing, just about every art medium in his work.
  • His work frequently deals with childhood, trauma, rebellion, class, and pop culture.
  • There are lots of rainbows in his work. Bitches I love rainbows.
  • MoMA and Guggenheim are just some casual places he’s had work.
  • PS1 Show by MoMA was the biggest solo-show of his work
  • Kelley was found dead of apparent suicide on January 31, 2012

Thinking about Kelley’s work, about childhood and trauma and getting into trouble and youth and school and the notion of repressed memories and how he grew up in a working-class suburb of Detroit (Represent!) and how he died of apparent suicide makes me head spin. Maybe I’m projecting my own childhood and trauma and schooling and everything else onto his work, but hey, that’s part of contemporary practice, I’m sure.

RIP, Banana Man.

Image result for mike kelley banana man

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