Jori Finkel has an article in The Art Newspaper on the politics of talking, or not talking, about Mike Kelley’s suicide. She writes of the Kelley retrospective, now at MOCA Geffen,
“I’m relieved that art historians assessing Kelley’s legacy are not sensationalising his death or letting it overshadow his art, which has happened in some press coverage.… Nevertheless, the failure to acknowledge that Kelley died by his own hand, alongside the omission of his depression and drinking, smacks of wishful thinking.… Does the Stedelijk’s 400-page catalogue, billed as the ‘most comprehensive book on the iconoclastic American artist’, really have no room for a basic account of Kelley’s death and depression? Does art history as practiced today need to be blind to an artist’s biography? There must be some middle ground between people worshipping Van Gogh as the ear-slicing genius-madman and academics interpreting the work of Mike Kelley without mentioning his suicide.
“Above all, it seems highly ironic that an artist who brilliantly mined the realm of suppressed memory and subterranean imagery, who was fascinated by the Freudian mechanisms of repression, would become subject to these sorts of public denials and evasions.”
(Pictured, Kelley’s Personality Crisis, 1982.)
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