L.A. Contemporary Artist, Mike Kelley, Remembered

  • Artist Mike Kelley (1954-2012).  Photo by Cameron Wittig courtesy Walker Art Center

    Artist Mike Kelley (1954-2012). Photo by Cameron Wittig courtesy Walker Art Center

Known as a pioneering installation artist who put Los Angeles on the map as a contemporary art center in the 1980s, artist Mike Kelley has died at 57.

Pending an autopsy, suicide is a possible cause. He was found in his home in South Pasadena, Calif., on Tuesday evening.

Kelley created "Monkey Island," a performance/installation staged in Metro Pictures in 1982 and Rosamund Felsen Gallery in 1983 that made him well-known.

Later, he switched to different materials creating such pieces as "More Love Hours Than Can Ever Be Repaid" from 1987, an installation of worn rag dolls, animals and blankets.

A collector of Kelley artwork, filmmaker John Waters describes these installations in his 2010 book "Role Models," calling him "the man who made pitiful seem sexy by turning grimy thrift-store stuffed animals into heartbreaking, jaw-droppingly beautiful sculptures by placing them on stained blankets on the floor or facedown on card tables next to one another like dead Jonestown suicide cultists."

 

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