Exhibition featuring Mike Kelley's ink and collage works on paper created in 1989 opens at Skarstedt
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Exhibition featuring Mike Kelley's ink and collage works on paper created in 1989 opens at Skarstedt
Mike Kelley, The Dream of the Young Settler. Reconstructed History, 1989, ink and collage on paper, framed, in fifty parts, 11 x 8.5 inches each. © The Estate of Mike Kelley/Mike Kelley Foundation for the Arts.

NEW YORK, NY.- Skarstedt presents Mike Kelley: Reconstructed History, an exhibition featuring Kelley’s ink and collage works on paper created in 1989, offering new insights into a lesser-explored area of the artist’s diverse oeuvre. The exhibition features the original 50 illustrations from Kelley’s Reconstructed History series and is on view at Skarstedt (550 W. 21st Street) from September 11 through October 25, 2014.

In Reconstructed History, Kelley imitated how tomorrow’s leaders of society—the next generation—make their mark on the past through the act of defacing textbooks with doodles and notations—signifying their own ‘reconstruction’ while moving towards the future. In keeping with his conceptual practice and predilection towards using non-art objects as material, Kelley explored the found textbook as medium. He mined yard sales for used American History textbooks and graffitied over their pages. Perverse scribbles of lewd comments and gestures enliven the repressed nature of these seemingly heroic and historic images.

Utilizing the vernacular of scholarly tomes and creating interventions on their pages, Kelley challenged traditional attitudes towards history and education and questions the societal and cultural values usually ascribed to these subjects. This series of works prompts us to reconsider the way history books communicate the stories of our predecessors to our successors, investigating the re-appropriation of meaning through the interpretation of the past. Through this lens, once bland textbook titles become ironic (‘A Record of Our Country’, ‘History for Young Citizens’). Kelley wrote, “The past is where these things belong—adored but not emulated.”

The works in the exhibition were famously compiled into a limited edition catalogue published in 1990, titled Mike Kelley: Minor Histories, Statements, Conversations, Proposals. Printed in script on faux parchment, Kelley’s introduction to the catalogue duplicitously recalls the colonial era in its typeface and scholastic tone. Editor John C. Welchman explains, “The images are not ‘found’ but made. The result is an elaborate hoax, one of the more vivid of Kelley’s many efforts to perform, write, and represent through fictitious adopted personae.”

Mike Kelley was born in Detroit, Michigan in 1954. He graduated from the University of Michigan in 1976. His work has been exhibited extensively throughout the United States and Europe. Recent solo exhibitions include a major retrospective exhibition at MOCA, Los Angeles in 2014, MoMA PS1 in 2013-2014, HangarBicocca in Milan in 2013, the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam in 2012-2013, the WIELS Centre d'Art Contemporain in Brussels in 2008, the Musée du Louvre in Paris in 2006 and the Tate Liverpool and the Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig (MUMOK) in Vienna in 2004. Kelley is represented in numerous international collections, as well as those of the Hammer Museum and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). Kelley has participated in multiple Whitney Biennials and others held internationally. Mike Kelley was a prolific writer and critic himself, and his work has been featured in multiple publications. Mike Kelley lived and worked in Los Angeles.

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