With sullied stuffed animals, models of a sci-fi city and a statue of astronaut John Glenn covered in broken ceramic, a retrospective of Mike Kelley makes its final stop in Los Angeles – two years after his suicide.
The idiosyncratic artist is best known for his work with found objects that evoke and question memories from youth, notably 1987’s More Love Hours Than Can Ever Be Repaid and the Wages of Sin, a collection of discarded stuffed animals and dolls hung on used afghans next to a table of candles.
The exhibition at the city’s Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) is as moving as it is large. Organisers began assembling the 250-plus-work show in 2008 with Kelley but had to finish it without him after his death at age 57 in January 2012.
“It was going to be a thematic retrospective that was very much involved in his participation and collaboration,” said Ann Goldstein, the exhibition’s curator and a former artistic director at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam.
“With his absence there was a feeling that it needed to be a different kind of show, that maybe because the work was suddenly brutally finished,” Goldstein added.
The show marks not only the first under new director Philippe Vergne, but also a chance for the institution to reboot itself after funding and leadership troubles in the past year threw into doubt its future as an independent museum.