The full-museum retrospective on the late Mike Kelley at MoMA PS1 opened a few weeks ago. I attended the opening in my self-made Kelley-inspired pom pom jacket, but it's taken me a few weeks to develop my feelings about the show and begin to understand the overwhelming experience.
First of all, it is not an exhibition that can be confronted in one visit. There is just too much -- so many extremely different, opposing mediums and ideas -- that it requires more than one sojourn in order to begin to even scratch the surface of the meaning and intent of Kelley's oeuvre.
Kelley created work that spanned a 30-year career in almost every medium imaginable: assemblage, film, works on paper, painting, sculpture, digital, installation, and on and on. Much of this work deals with themes of isolation, repressed memory, sexuality, self-exploration. My personal favorite work is Deodorized Central Mass with Satellites (1991), which I planned ahead to emulate with my pom pom jacket.
However, one of the most poignant pieces in the exhibition is Lumpenprole and Ageistprop (above). A vast knit blanket stretched across the floor, concealing unidentified lumps beneath it, this work is the perfect example of Kelley's interest in repressed memory, and the way he consistently returned to previously explored themes throughout his widespread career. While I was viewing the work, another museum attendee held his iPhone poised at the ready in order to catch the movement of the mysterious shapes (spoiler alert: they don't move). This anecdote is a perfect example of my experience of the show: the feeling that there is something lurking around the corner that could change or develop at any moment, without notice.
Shoes: United Nude
Clutch: Betsey Johnson
Photos by Kathy Paciello; Lumpenprole image from hamptonartshub.com.