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Mike Kelley

Shock

1982–83

Mike Kelley’s work grapples with mass culture’s representations, undermining sacrosanct subjects (history, art, philosophy, religion, science) and their practitioners through popular culture’s leveling and debasing inscriptions. Shock is part of Kelley’s Monkey Island (1982–83), a performance and installation made up of a sexually charged adolescent cosmology of insects and monkeys. For Monkey Island, Kelley played with the metaphorical implications of the X-shaped diagram (familiar to art historians) that stands for the relationship of the viewer to illusionistic space in perspectival painting. The components that comprise the work are hung salon-style in their own room, positioned where architectural elements meet (such as abutting corners or above the door), so that the installation itself constitutes a mapping of the space.

Mike Kelley (b. 1954, Detroit; lives and works in Los Angeles)
Shock, 1982–83
Acrylic and mercurochrome on paper
Three works: 47 3/4 x 37 1/2 in. each; one work: 24 x 19 in.
The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles
The El Paso Natural Gas Company Fund for California Art

I believe that art is socially useful. If it is destructive, it is constructively so. What helps some, hurts others—all art is not made for the same audience. We are in a very restrictive period where many think it is necessary to narrow the limits of what is allowable, to set up a unitary reality and condemn the idea of multiple “realities.” I support an art of multiplicity, which is why I am an “anti-classical” artist. In fact, I like to think that I make my work primarily for those who dislike it. I get pleasure from that idea. —Mike Kelley

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