Largest-ever Mike Kelley exhibit is showing at MoMA PS1

Mike Kelley MoMa
One highlight of this immense exhibit is Mike Kelley’s “Deodorized Central Mass with Satellites” (1991-1999).
Credit: Joshua White

Entering MoMA PS1’s “Mike Kelley” retrospective — the largest-ever exhibition of the eclectic and influential artist’s work — is like plunging down the rabbit hole into an uncanny world. It occupies the entire museum and brings together more than 200 works representing Kelley’s entire career from the 1970s through 2012, the year of his untimely death.

At once familiar and strange, Kelley pushes conventions to their breaking points. His dark humor speaks for the underbelly of society, exploring themes of class, pop culture, childhood, repressed memories and contradictions within power structures.

The art on view is expansive, including drawing, printmaking, painting, assemblage, sculpture, photography, film, sound and performance. Kelley’s expertise comes when he combines media to create installations that allow you to enter phantasmagorical worlds.

Visiting “Mike Kelley” is an immersive experience. At times humorous, perverse and bizarre — yet ultimately relatable — Kelley’s sardonically critical art always keeps you guessing. It affirms Kelley’s status as an artist with a passionate project of social critique and self-criticism.

Here’s a guide to the exhibition’s highlights:

  • “Deodorized Central Mass with Satellites” (1991/1999) is a must-see installation of plush toys sewn into motley, kaleidoscopic cloud formations descending from the museum’s ceiling.
  • “Wayne, MI (US), 1954 – South Pasadena, CA (US), 2012 Switching Marys” (2004–2005) is the exhibit’s most consuming installation. Inspired by the New Age faith in repressed memory of traumatic abuse, Kelley filmed creepy, not-quite-right re-creations of dated high-school yearbook photos, which are projected amid sculptures assembled from props used in the videos and simulacrum photographs of the actors alongside the yearbook originals.
  • “Kandor Project” (1999-2011) is a series of sculptures, illustrations and projections named for the fictional birthplace of Superman — which, in comic-book lore, was shrunken and preserved under glass. The pseudoscientific “Kandor” installation weaves together Kelley’s glowing sculptures — cast in colored resin and encased in containers or set on faux-rock pedestals —with oversized video projections of Kandors-in-action, in which encased minerals whirl about their glass vitrines like so many dreamlike snow globes.


If you go

‘Mike Kelley’
Through Feb. 2, 2014
Thursdays–Mondays, 11 a.m.-6 p.m.
22-25 Jackson Ave., Long Island City
General admission $10,


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