Milan – Mike Kelley: “Eternity is a Long Time” at HangarBicocca Through September 8th, 2013

June 11th, 2013

 Mike Kelley, Eternity is a Long Time (Installation View), Photo by Agostino Osio Courtesy Fondazione HangarBicocca, Milan All Mike Kelley works © Estate of Mike Kelley
Mike Kelley, Eternity is a Long Time (Installation View), Photo by Agostino Osio Courtesy Fondazione HangarBicocca, Milan All Mike Kelley works © Estate of Mike Kelley  

Running in tandem with this summer’s Venice Biennale, Milan’s HangarBicocca is currently presenting a selection of works by the late American conceptual master Mike Kelley, culling together a series of sculptures, installations and video from the last few years of his life, alongside several of his earlier notable conceptual pieces.Mike Kelley, Eternity is a Long Time (Installation View), Photo by Agostino Osio Courtesy Fondazione HangarBicocca, Milan All Mike Kelley works © Estate of Mike Kelley

Mike Kelley, Eternity is a Long Time (Installation View), Photo by Agostino Osio Courtesy Fondazione HangarBicocca, Milan All Mike Kelley works © Estate of Mike Kelley  

Pulling heavily from Kelley’s work between 2000 and 2006, curators Emi Fontana (who worked extensively with Kelley during the last years of his life), and Andrea Lissoni have created an exhibition of work that welcomes a historical perspective on Kelley’s later work, while also showing the increasingly complex methodology and theoretical practice that the artist had begun to embrace, fusing cultural critique with an informed and interconnected creative practice that joined multiple bodies of work through thematic identifiers and a studied awareness of pop culture.

Mike Kelley, Eternity is a Long Time (Installation View), Photo by Agostino Osio Courtesy Fondazione HangarBicocca, Milan All Mike Kelley works © Estate of Mike Kelley

Mike Kelley, Eternity is a Long Time (Installation View), Photo by Agostino Osio Courtesy Fondazione HangarBicocca, Milan All Mike Kelley works © Estate of Mike Kelley  

The show, titled Eternity is a Long Time, takes its name from the dialogue in Kelley’s film Extracurricular Activity Projective Reconstruction #1 (A Domestic Scene), a powerful investigation into psychological dependency, suicide and repression that the curators selected as a prime example of Kelley’s later work, tying into his increasingly diversified references to American literature, social mores, and intermingling of traditional theatre with video and sculpture, all while managing to incorporate strong autobiographical and personal histories into the fabric of the work.  It was a defining piece, that projected Kelley’s remarkably growing abilities while also hinting at the tragic depression that would eventually claim his own life.

 Mike Kelley, Eternity is a Long Time (Installation View), Photo by Agostino Osio Courtesy Fondazione HangarBicocca, Milan All Mike Kelley works © Estate of Mike Kelley
Mike Kelley, Eternity is a Long Time (Installation View), Photo by Agostino Osio Courtesy Fondazione HangarBicocca, Milan All Mike Kelley works © Estate of Mike Kelley  

Alongside this work, the show also includes several videos exploring American concepts of initiatory ritual and cultural reproductions of the same imagery.  In several works, Kelley examines the investigation of the “satanic” and supernatural in American society, both through films on youthful bravado and culturally dictated methods of expression, such as Halloween’s relative acceptance and repositioning of debauchery, violent behavior and mischief.  Kelley also explores pop conceptions of the youthful initiation, particularly through repeated references to the raunchy sex-comedy Porky’s.  Recontextualizing the film’s open sexual attitudes and depictions as a rite of passage, Kelley investigates the shifting values of late 1970’s America, and the new images of youth as dictated by consumer-oriented forces.

Mike Kelley, Eternity is a Long Time (Installation View), Photo by Agostino Osio Courtesy Fondazione HangarBicocca, Milan All Mike Kelley works © Estate of Mike Kelley
Mike Kelley, Eternity is a Long Time (Installation View), Photo by Agostino Osio Courtesy Fondazione HangarBicocca, Milan All Mike Kelley works © Estate of Mike Kelley  

There is also a notable sense of Kelley’s own body of work here, similar to CalArts alumnus Paul McCarthy.  Works, materials and themes are recycled throughout his pieces, infusing new cultural value and an inkling of his personal artistic voice into the conversation with external cultural inputs.  Through this approach, Kelley in turn becomes an activator, setting up a piece that not only places disparate cultural images into dialogue, but also infuses his own persona and approach in a way that leaves the viewer distinctly aware of his role as an agent. While Kelley maintains his hand in the work, the viewer is aware that these images and sources are not all his own, and each speak with their own series of ascribed and internal values.

Mike Kelley, Eternity is a Long Time (Installation View), Photo by Agostino Osio Courtesy Fondazione HangarBicocca, Milan All Mike Kelley works © Estate of Mike Kelley
Mike Kelley, Eternity is a Long Time (Installation View), Photo by Agostino Osio Courtesy Fondazione HangarBicocca, Milan All Mike Kelley works © Estate of Mike Kelley  

In one such work, John Glenn Memorial Detroit River Reclamation Project (Including the Local Culture Pictorial Guide, 1968-1972, Wayne/Westland Eagle), Kelley infuses his own personal history with the detritus of his own work and experiences, using the format of the public sculpture as a reclamation and cleansing of public space, while locating the work and its images somewhere between fact and myth.

Mike Kelley, Eternity is a Long Time (Installation View), Photo by Agostino Osio Courtesy Fondazione HangarBicocca, Milan All Mike Kelley works © Estate of Mike Kelley
Mike Kelley, Eternity is a Long Time (Installation View), Photo by Agostino Osio Courtesy Fondazione HangarBicocca, Milan All Mike Kelley works © Estate of Mike Kelley  

Delving deeply into Kelley’s intricately layered series of works, HangarBicocca has put together a striking exhibition that offers both a prime experience of Kelley’s work, while also welcoming a more in-depth experience for fans of his work.  Melding personal history with cultural awareness, Kelley’s show offers a prime view of the artist, and his experience of American society.  The show is on view until September 8th.

Mike Kelley, Eternity is a Long Time (Installation View), Photo by Agostino Osio Courtesy Fondazione HangarBicocca, Milan All Mike Kelley works © Estate of Mike Kelley All rights reserved  2
Mike Kelley, Eternity is a Long Time (Installation View), Photo by Agostino Osio Courtesy Fondazione HangarBicocca, Milan All Mike Kelley works © Estate of Mike Kelley

Mike Kelley, Eternity is a Long Time (Installation View), Photo by Agostino Osio Courtesy Fondazione HangarBicocca, Milan All Mike Kelley works © Estate of Mike Kelley
Mike Kelley, Eternity is a Long Time (Installation View), Photo by Agostino Osio Courtesy Fondazione HangarBicocca, Milan All Mike Kelley works © Estate of Mike Kelley  

Mike Kelley, Eternity is a Long Time (Installation View), Photo by Agostino Osio Courtesy Fondazione HangarBicocca, Milan All Mike Kelley works © Estate of Mike Kelley
Mike Kelley, Eternity is a Long Time (Installation View), Photo by Agostino Osio Courtesy Fondazione HangarBicocca, Milan All Mike Kelley works © Estate of Mike Kelley  

Mike Kelley, Eternity is a Long Time (Installation View), Photo by Agostino Osio Courtesy Fondazione HangarBicocca, Milan All Mike Kelley works © Estate of Mike Kelley
Mike Kelley, Eternity is a Long Time (Installation View), Photo by Agostino Osio Courtesy Fondazione HangarBicocca, Milan All Mike Kelley works © Estate of Mike Kelley  

—D. Creahan

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