Artist Mike Kelley
February 2, 2012 by staff
Artist Mike Kelley, Artist Mike Kelley, described by colleagues as an “irresistible force” in contemporary art, has died, police said Wednesday. He was 57.
Kelley was found at his home Tuesday and it appeared he had committed suicide, South Pasadena Police Sgt. Robert Bartl said, without providing further information on the artist’s death. An autopsy was pending.
“Kelley’s work in the 1980s was part of how one defined the Los Angeles arts scene. He had a remarkable ability to fuse distinction between fine and popular art in ways that managed to perturb our sense of decorum,” said Stephanie Barron, senior curator of modern art at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
A family friend who was concerned about Kelley went to his home and called 911, Bartl said.
The friend told investigators that Kelley had been depressed because he had recently broken up with his girlfriend, but no note was found, Bartl said.
“Mike was an irresistible force in contemporary art. … We cannot believe he is gone. But we know his legacy will continue to touch and challenge anyone who crosses its path. We will miss him. We will keep him with us,” Kelley’s studio said in a statement that the Los Angeles Times published on its website.
Kelley’s work was included in the upcoming 2012 Whitney Biennial out of New York.
Kelley used many mediums and source materials. “He was always breaking boundaries and challenging convention,” Barron said.
Some of his greatest works were large scale installations, she said. “Some of his room-sized, full-gallery sized extravaganzas are truly impressive.”
Kelley was a student of John Baldessari. His 1994 retrospective organized by the Whitney, which came to LACMA in 1995, established him as a major figure in the art world, Barron said.
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