Associated with the West Coast, Mike Kelley (Detroit, 1954 – Pasadena, 2012) graduated from the University of Michigan and later the California Institute of the Arts, where he studied under Douglas Huebler and John Baldessari, among others. Provocative by nature, he was interested in the dark side of desire, the socio-pathological aspects of American life, the hypocrisy of the family, religion, sexuality and education. Always living against the norm, his work includes performances, installations and sculptures. With his black humour, he often incorporated toys and everyday objects into his work with a kitsch aesthetic but subversive meaning. Behind his famous rag dolls and soft toys lay tensions and a sardonic humour. For many years Kelley participated in video projects as a performer (of great dramatic intensity) or director. Among his collaborators are some of the most prominent figures in art, performance, cinema and video, such as Paul McCarthy, Raymond Pettibon, Ericka Beckman and Tony Oursler, with whom he formed the rock band Poetics. He never abandoned his collaborations with bands, including friends such as Iggy Pop and Sonic Youth.

In 2013 the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, organised the largest retrospective exhibition to date, which toured to the Centre Pompidou, Paris, MoMA and PS1, New York, and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. In 1997, another retrospective exhibition of the artist at MACBA, Barcelona, toured to the Center for Contemporary Art, Malmö, and the Stedelijk Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven. His work is included in major international collections such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, Museum for Moderner Kunst, Vienna, and Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York.

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