‘Devastated’: Shock, grief after artist Mike Kelley’s sudden death


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Mike Kelley’s apparent suicide Tuesday rocked the Los Angeles art community, and friends, admirers and colleagues expressed their shock and grief.

‘I am so devastated. Mike is our great Los Angeles artist. He’s the one that changed the game for a whole generation, said Paul Schimmel, chief curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art. ‘If one could point the finger singularly, he’s it. As an artist, a curator, as a kind of passionate advocate for this community and his generation, he’s a real giant.’


Dennis Cooper posted his reaction on his Facebook page: ‘I’m completely and absolutely shocked and devastated about the death of Mike Kelley, a very great artist and a very old friend of mine. Please hold a good thought for him.’ Cooper is a writer, performance artist and art critic. His “Smothered in Hugs: Essays, Interviews, Feedback, and Obituaries” includes a 2003 interview with Kelley published in Art Forum.

PHOTOS: Mike Kelley | 1954-2012

A group of colleagues and friends including fellow artists Paul McCarthy and Jim Shaw and collector Kourosh Larizadeh sent an email that they said was ‘for all Mike’s many friends near and far’:

‘Our dear friend the artist Mike Kelley (born 1954 in Detroit) has passed away. Unstintingly passionate, habitually outspoken and immeasurably creative in every genre or material with which he took up--and that was most of them, from performance and sculpture to painting, installation and video, from experimental music to writing in a thousand voices--Mike was an irresistible force in contemporary art. For Mike history existed only to be reconstructed, memory was selective, faulty and willful and life itself vibrant but often dysfunctional. We can hear him disagreeing with us. We cannot believe he is gone. But we know his legacy will continue to touch and challenge anyone who crosses its path. We will miss him. We will keep him with us.’

Others signing the email were Kelley Studio and Emi Fontana, Karen McCarthy, Fredrik Nilsen, Anita Pace, Mary Clare Stevens, Marnie Weber, John C. Welchman.



Artist Mike Kelley has died

Art Review: Mike Kelley at Gagosian Gallery

Art Review: Michael Smith and Mike Kelley at West of Rome

--Kelly Scott

Above: Kelley’s ‘Kandor 10 A (Grotto).’ Credit: Fredrik Nilsen for Gagosian Gallery