Mike Kelley Artist

February 28, 2012 by staff 

Mike Kelley Artist, Mike Kelley, one of the most influential American artists of the past quarter century and a pungent commentator on American class, popular culture and youthful rebellion, was found dead on Wednesday at his home in South Pasadena, Calif. He was 57.
Some of Mr. Kelley’s artwork included sculptural pieces using stuffed animals, like “Deodorized Central Mass With Satellites.”

Sgt. Robert Bartl of the South Pasadena police said it appeared that Mr. Kelley had committed suicide. Speaking to The Associated Press, he said a friend of Mr. Kelley’s had told investigators that Mr. Kelley had been depressed after breaking up with a girlfriend.

An autopsy was to be performed, Sergeant Bartl said.

Mr. Kelley was born in Wayne, Mich., a suburb of Detroit, to a working class Roman Catholic family in October 1954. His father was in charge of maintenance for a public school system; his mother was a cook in the executive dining room at Ford Motor Company. He had early aspirations to be a novelist, but doubted his talent and found writing was too difficult, so he turned his energies to art, through painting, object-making and through music.

In high school he immersed himself in Detroit’s heavy metal music subculture, and that involvement continued through college at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. There he performed in a proto-punk noise band called Destroy All Monsters with three other artists, Jim Shaw, Niagara and Carey Loren, creating work that, with its combination of anti-establishment politics and Dada theatrics, had close connections to performance art.

He brought this interest with him to graduate school in 1978 at the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia, Calif. There he formed a second art-band, “The Poetics,” with fellow students John Miller and Tony Oursler. He absorbed, with some resistance, the school’s overriding focus on Conceptual Art and theory, eased into by the embracing approach of teachers like John Baldessari, Laurie Anderson and Douglas Huebler.

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