Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Mike Kelley at Gagosian

Ah, Mike Kelley. He's the man. The Dude. The Dudester. El Duderino. Yes, indeed, he's really one of the main men of American art from the West Coast 1980's. He's done it. He was there way before anyone else (well, maybe not Paul McCarthy, but that's another story). He was being a Dude.
Ah, yes, Mikey Mikey Mike Kelley.
I'm standing in the huge space that Gagosian calls a gallery. Man, it's a big place. It's full of people in black coats. Us art folk love wearing black. And we like going to private views and standing around with other people wearing black. Black clothing is serious; it tells people who see us that we are serious. It's a cool colour. Plus, it's very slimming, don't you think?
Around the walls in this main room are Mike's drawings. Odd, doodly, disjointed drawings on pieces of paper butted together. They are called the hermaphrodite drawings - exhibiting charateristics of both male and female - or, in some cases here, just entrails and a head. They are weird and I don't get them at all. I look at each one. Then I look in the room off the main space and at some of the sculptural pieces. These I like a lot more. There are about 6 or so pieces in the room. They all have that Mike Kelley art and craft thing that he has going on, but their production is a little tighter, a little more finished. I walk round this room for a while, taking time to study each piece. They are really good, and get better the more I look at them.
I go out of this room, cross the main room and into the other smaller space tonight. Three Mikes and two Picassos. Blimey. Someone's staking out the territory here. I'm not sure this works, though. Is he taking on Picasso? Is there a resonance here? I'm not convinced.
Whatever, I go back to that room with the other sculptures in. There's a figure lying face down on the ground - except he has no face. He's made of straw. He has a red and white checked shirt and a pair of blue dungarees on. That's him in the photo above. Where his back should be is a depressed cube shape. There are some silver studs on the shirt in there and I think they say FRESNO. Or do they? Over there on the wall is another sculpture. This is two feet, vertically diametrically at odds to each other but sharing a single leg that seems to move through female to male. I like this a lot. There's a similar one with a blue and white theme and only a single foot just opposite this. There's a silver sort of torso in the far corner. What the hell any of this is supposed to be saying I don't know, but I can't shake off a feeling of sorrow and loss and a sense that he is dealing with American history. Except it's not how the west was won, but how it was lost. There's also a curious sense of male and female about these sculptures, as though they can't quite decide what they are, or as if they are unformed as yet, or maybe deformed. All these thoughts, ah hah, yes, of course, lead me back to the Hermaphrodite drawings...
Now I'm thinking about America, masculinity, femininity, history, suffering, war...
Well, didn't realise all that was going on when I wandered round in my nice black coat.
I see a few artworld stars in the crowd, and lots of women of a certain age with long blond hair framing faces whose skin has been polished and buffed with wealth and comfortable living for many years. I see the small crowd of bearded men I see everywhere.
And, as I leave, and head off down the street I see Hans Ulrich Obrist. He's striding along, deep in a serious conversation, heading into Gagosian's, wearing the same coat I saw him in the other day.
It is a bright shocking red.

black coat pics


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