Mike Kelley, Famed Visual Artist, Found Dead in Apparent Suicide

Feb 2, 2012 12:50am

Famed installation artist Mike Kelley, known for his art work with fellow artist Paul Mccarthy and the band Sonic Youth, was found dead Tuesday night at his California home, according to police.

Kelley, who was 57, died of an apparent suicide, South Pasadena Police Sgt. Robert Bartl said. No further information was given regarding his death, but an autopsy is pending.

“It is totally shocking that someone would decide to do this, someone who has success and renown and options,” Helene Winer of New York’s Metro Pictures gallery told Artinfo.com. “It’s extremely sad.”

Kelley drew from elements of pop culture and the post-punk aesthetic to fill spaces with unusual sculptures and objects, including, in a 2011 piece, a miniature Sigmund Freud situated with a life-sized Colonel Sanders statue

It was in the early to mid-1990s that Kelley rose to fame in the art world. “Catholic Tastes,” Kelley’s 1993 exhibition at New York’s Whitney Museum of American Art, established him as a major figure in the art world, a year after one if his piece appeared on the cover of New York post-punk band Sonic Youth’s seminal album “Dirty.
A student of conceptual artist John Baldessari, who is known for his use of appropriated images, Kelley worked with McCartney, notably on set pieces featuring full life-size rubber figures.

In 2005 Kelley produced “Day is Done,” a multimedia installation featuring automated furniture and stage sets based on photos from high school yearbooks, which The New York Times called “an amazing feat of industry and poetics.”

Kelley was born in Detroit in 1954. As a youth he got involved in the city’s music scene, which was producing bands like Iggy and the Stooges, and went on to play in early post-punk band Destroy All Monsters. In the mid 1970s he relocated to California to pursue his art career.

Kelley’s work will be included in the upcoming Whitney Biennial.

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