Mike Kelley: Bad Boy

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Episode #117: Mike Kelley sets the record straight about being called a “bad boy” throughout his career, describing the shifting tastes of critics and artists towards abject art in recent years.

Mike Kelley’s work ranges from highly symbolic and ritualistic performance pieces, to arrangements of stuffed-animal sculptures, to wall-sized drawings, to multi-room installations that restage institutional environments (schools, offices, zoos), to extended collaborations with artists such as Paul McCarthy, Tony Oursler, and the band Sonic Youth. His work questions the legitimacy of ‘normative’ values and systems of authority, and attacks the sanctity of cultural attitudes toward family, religion, sexuality, art history, and education. He also comments on and undermines the legitimacy of the concept of victim or trauma culture, which posits that almost all behavior results from some form of repressed abuse. Kelley’s aesthetic mines the rich and often overlooked history of vernacular art in America, and his practice borrows heavily from the confrontational, politically conscious “by all means necessary” attitude of punk music.

Mike Kelley is featured in the Season 3 (2005) episode Memory of the Art:21—Art in the Twenty-First Century television series on PBS. Watch the video online via Hulu.

VIDEO | Producer: Wesley Miller & Nick Ravich. Interview: Susan Sollins. Camera: Norbert Arnsteiner & Nancy Schreiber. Sound: Stacy Hruby & Ullrich Vlasak. Editor: Paulo Padilha. Artwork Courtesy: Mike Kelley. Special Thanks: MUMOK, Vienna

Contributor
Wesley Miller is the associate curator at ART21. Miller co-curates the television series Art in the Twenty-First Century. He is also co-creator of the series New York Close Up.

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