Mike Kelley: Arenas
Published on the occasion of the exhibition Mike Kelley: Arenas, this catalogue features full plate images, installation views, and an essay by art historian Cary Levine titled “Pandora’s Blanket: Mike Kelley’s Arenas in Cultural Context.”
Mike Kelley’s Arenas series of the late 80s and early 90s mark a shift away from the artist’s performance-oriented activity and towards a new sculptural dexterity, in which cultural resonance is elicited from an eerie reframing of everyday objects. First exhibited in 1990 at Metro Pictures, the Arenas are comprised of stuffed animals arranged around the edges of blankets (or occasionally posed isolate in their center). Ten or twenty such toys in such groupings might convey a cheery childhood picnic scenario, but Kelley rarely selects more than five or six, and places them carefully so that their cuddliness and their capacity to comfort is entirely canceled out. Instead, we encounter the toy as a commodity entity―a mass-manufactured product positioned to enter into play but far from inviting it. Skarstedt’s exhibition of seven of the eleven Arenas is here recorded in superb installation shots and with critical commentary.