Mike Kelley, Ectoplasm Photograph 7, 1978/2009 © Mike Kelley Foundation for the Arts/ VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2023
Mike Kelley. Ghost and Spirit
Mar 23 – Sep 8, 2024
Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen
Düsseldorf, Germany

The work of Mike Kelley (1954–2012) is experimental, opulent, and irritating, making it widely acknowledged as one of the most influential contributions to the art world since the late 1970s. The Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen presents a comprehensive retrospective at K21, in collaboration with Tate Modern, London, the Bourse de Commerce/Pinault Collection, Paris, and Moderna Museet, Stockholm.

From spiritualist notions to heavy metal to Superman comics, Kelley draws on the images and myths of pop and subculture to pose perennial questions about man’s place in the world and society. The themes of his work range from the influence of politics and education to class and gender affiliation. In the 1990s, his “handicraft” and stuffed animal works posed puzzles, and it became apparent that something sinister, threatening, and twisted lurked behind the seemingly harmless toys. One of his last major bodies of work, Day Is Done (2004-2005), references images of high-school performances and carnivalesque events. Kelley understood them as sites of ritualized deviations from social conventions. Art itself can be conceived as part of these spaces, providing a stage for the artist’s role – a role portrayed by Kelley as that of a highly fragile figure.

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