“Mike Kelley, Kandors, 1999-2011”, opens at Hauser & Wirth, Saturday, October 21, 2017, from 6-9 pm and continues through January 21, 2018. Cartwheel Art was invited for the press opening of the survey of Kelley’s take on Superman’s original world, Kandor. We were introduced to his extensive body of work, by the gallery’s Senior Director, Stacen Berg, John C. Welchman, a writer, scholar and Chairman of the Board at the Mike Kelley Foundation of the Arts, as well as Marie Clare (MC) Stevens, Mike Kelley’s Studio Manager and the Executive Director of his foundation. Stevens and Bennett Simpson, Senior Curator at MOCA, then walked the press through each gallery giving overview and insight into Kelley’s work. See our Facebook Live video here.
Stacen Berg introduced the press to Kelley’s exhibition and The Mike Kelley Foundation for the Arts, their collaborative partnership, in bringing the most comprehensive showing of the Kandors series to date, and to present this work, in his hometown of Los Angeles, for the first time. Berg explained the Foundation’s commitment to education and is an extension of Kelly’s charitable work and provides grants for projects reflecting his deeply faceted artistic practice as well as preserving the artists legacy.
A “Hectic Creative” was a term Kelley used to describe himself, more than once, as MC Stevens, tells the story. Giving insight, yet barley scratching the surface of his mind and process. Stevens spoke of the outward, inward, sideways, multidimensional and multi-galactical explorations of Kandors. Illuminating humankind’s psychic disconnect and continual reminder of its source as experienced in this earthly dimension. With infinite curiosity in his research, sparked by free association, Kelley explores and innovates simultaneously.
With palatable love, respect, understanding and brotherhood, John C. Welchman spoke of Mike Kelley and his appetite, maybe compulsion, for knowledge, visioning and creating. With an inherent understanding of the human condition, Welchman reiterated Kelley’s themes of projective reconstruction, the collective mind, ideals of memories as illusive in nature and that we all retreat to forces of negation. “Fill the pit, the dark pit, with the resonances of color and poetry.”
The series, born from a concept presented to Kelley, as part of a group show in Germany, he wrote,
“I decided to create a project that centered on an out-of-date image of the future re-presented through recent technological developments. I chose to focus on the fictional city of Kandor from the Superman comics series.”
Although he was not personally interested in Superman, he felt “The Man of Steel’s” popularity would lead to an extended audience for this work.
Kandor-Con 2000, in the first gallery, was described as a failure at the time. The vision of the Kandor-Con 2000 event included a website where Superman fans could endlessly upload their own visions of Kandor, creating a never-ending database of possibilities, illuminating our memory and experience as illusion, or projection. Funding never materialized for the website or actual Comic Con like event… and his ideal for the project changed over time.
Multifaceted, Kandor-Con 2000 has large marketing signage for the event, animation depicting Kandor, architectural students creating models of their visions of Kandor, as well as models made at previous exhibitions, which are then caste and become part of the series. This never-ending production cycle circles back to his hope for the websites never-ending database.
Included are pencil drawn renderings of Kandor, in collage form, as well as ‘Superman Recites Selections From “The Bell Jar” and Other Works by Sylvia Plath’ where he has juxtaposed the masculine and feminine. Just to start.
“Kandors Full Set” (2005-2009) in the connecting gallery are dimly lit. There are 20 hand blown bell jars, with 21 illuminated cities, made of cast resin, yet resembling glass and/or sculptured gem stones. This room feels breathtaking and beautiful as the rendering come to life in 3d and color. We are reminded, the slickness and beauty of the ‘Full Set’ is a red herring, as the subject is not pleasing, once you think about it. Separation from your home, with constant yearning and the responsibility of care.
Continually going deeper and expanding at the same time, Kelly further explores the mythical city in the next room with large scale video depicting various atmospheres within the Bell Jars, with sound tracks also created by Kelley. Vignettes of the city, within the bell jar, with faux gas tanks feeding atmosphere to its inhabitants are also on display here and continue into the next room. Each a spinoff of the story with, ideals, memories, possibilities and longing. Each illuminating the illusiveness and distortion of reality in memory.
Kelley’s exploration of the “Dour Gnomes” derived as his two major projects at the time start to come together. The Extracurricular Activities Projective Reconstruction Series, with the Kandor Series. Here there is an illuminated photograph of the Dour Gnomes, almost pop art depictions of Kandor within a bell jar, as well as a walk-in experience of where the Gnomes live, along with a film experience of them.
Moving into the East Gallery is ‘Kandor 10B, Exploded Fortress of Solitude.’ It is an epic work, spread across two rooms, punctuated by the ‘Vice Anglais’ video instillation, EAPR #36. A disquieting, yet amusing film, inspired by British Hammer Horror films, depicting a psychosexual, sadomasochistic drama, played out with live actors in an apocalyptic setting.
The Fortress of Solitude was where Superman kept his original home, his little city in the bell jar, safe. Now the safety is gone, the atmosphere is dark, and what is left has beauty, in memory, if not possibility.
Endlessly deep and wide, helplessly mind blowing, Mike Kelley put his finger on the loneliness of being human and spirit on this planet, in this time.
“Mike Kelley, Kandors, 1999-2011”
October 21st, 2017 – January 21st, 2018
Saturday October 21st, 2017 (6pm – 9pm)
Hauser & Wirth
901 E. 3rd Street, Downtown Los Angeles Arts District, 90013
L-R: John C. Welchman, a writer, scholar and Chairman of the Board at the Mike Kelley Foundation of the Arts, Marie Clare (MC) Stevens, Mike Kelley’s Studio Manager and the Executive Director of his foundation, and Bennett Simpson Senior Curator at MOCA
L-R: Hauser & Wirth Staff – Aandrea Stang, Public Relations Director, Elizabeth Portanova, Communications Manager, Stacen Berg, Senior Director and Russell Salmon, Events Manager