64
64
Mike Kelley
CAVE PAINTING
Estimate
500,000700,000
LOT SOLD. 516,500 USD
JUMP TO LOT
64
Mike Kelley
CAVE PAINTING
Estimate
500,000700,000
LOT SOLD. 516,500 USD
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Contemporary Art Evening Auction

|
New York

Mike Kelley
1954 - 2012
CAVE PAINTING
numbered 1-12 on the reverse of each sheet
synthetic polymer on paper, in twelve parts
overall: 144 by 192 in. 365.8 by 487.7 cm.
Executed in 1984.
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Provenance

Rosamund Felsen Gallery, Santa Monica
Private Collection, California
Christie's, New York, May 16, 2000, Lot 36
Acquired by the present owner from the above

Exhibited

Newport Beach, California, Newport Harbor Art Museum, First Newport Biennial 1984: Los Angeles Today, October - November 1984
New York, Whitney Museum of American Art; Los Angeles, Los Angeles County Museum of Art; and Stockholm, Moderna Museet, Mike Kelley: Catholic Tastes, November 1993 - August 1994, p. 23, illustrated (in installation at the Newport Harbor Art Museum, 1984)
Los Angeles, Special K, Size Matters, October 1998
New York, New Museum, Skin Fruit: Selections from the Dakis Joannou Collection, March - June 2010, p. 75, illustrated in color

Literature

John C. Welchman, Isabelle Graw and Anthony Vidler, Mike Kelley, London, 1999, p. 56, illustrated (in installation at the Newport Harbor Art Museum, 1984)
Exh. Cat., Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum, Mike Kelley, 2013, p. 70, illustrated in color (in installation at the Newport Harbor Art Museum, 1984)
Jeff Koons, Skin Fruit: A View of a Collection, Athens, 2012, pp. 34-35, p. 38, and pp. 40-41, illustrated in color (in installation at the New Museum, New York)

Catalogue Note

Created in the years directly preceding Mike Kelley’s sensational ascent to critical acclaim, Cave Painting is a decisive early example of the stylistic innovation and conceptual vision that would, over the course of the next three decades, become the legacy of one of the most piercing artistic voices working in Los Angeles in the latter half of Twentieth Century. This painting was initially produced as a central component of Australiana, a larger suite of works on paper that marked a key development for Kelly’s graphic style. The following year, Kelley’s work was included in the 1985 Whitney Biennial, a hallmark moment in the twenty-one-year-old artist’s burgeoning career. Recognized as a critical example of the artist’s early output, Cave Painting was notably included in the 1993 retrospective Mike Kelley: Catholic Tastes, which travelled to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum in New York, and the Moderna Museet in Stockholm.  Executed with the full force of Kelley’s magnetic visual language, Cave Painting invites the viewer into the subterranean realm of the artist’s creative and visionary unconscious.

While the bold symbolism of Cave Painting evokes the semiotic complexity of Adolph Gottlieb’s Pictographs, the shapes in Kelley’s painting are enigmatically diverse, ranging from biomorphic forms to hieroglyphic symbols that ultimately evade any attempt at straightforward narrative interpretation. Within the mix of abstracted lines and patterns, the viewer can make out the silhouettes of giant lizards and cartoonish plants, preempting the fascination with stuffed animals and toys that would manifest in Kelley’s later work. With the title Cave Painting, however, the artist signifies an intense conceptual confrontation hidden below his bold forms; exemplifying his characteristic mixing of high- and low-brow cultural references, the work directly alludes to “Plato’s Cave,” one of the most significant philosophical allegories of Western literary history. In the “Allegory of the Cave,” Plato’s mentor, Socrates, describes a group of prehistoric humans who live out their lives in a dark cave, watching the flickering play of light on the cave walls and, in their ignorance, believing those shadows to be reality. Within the allegory, the philosopher is the inspired individual who, with the wisdom of education, breaks free from the cave and comes to understand that life within was not reality but an inverted illusion, a flickering world of dreams and myths.

Monumental and magnificent, Cave Painting looms above the viewer as the physical embodiment of Plato’s Cave; the striking white lines of the varied forms leap forward from the monochromatic black background, creating the electrifying sensation of multidimensional movement. Standing before the enormous composition, the viewer’s gaze darts from form to form, entranced by the visual interplay of textures, lines, shapes, and patterns that vibrate before us. By rendering the shadowy wall of the cave with a rich symbolism and fascinating complexity, Kelley subverts the indoctrination of Plato’s narrative. Instead, Cave Painting privileges the dream-like realm of illusion and the unconscious over that of cognitive reality, signaling the inventive and transgressive aversion to traditional artistic modes that would shape Kelley’s radical career. As Jose Lebrero Stals remarked, “In a manner far different from our central narratives of the interplay of modernism and mass culture, Kelley's work forced a confrontation between the avant-garde and underground culture, a barely understood legacy of his oeuvre with which we will long have to grapple.” (Jose Lebrero Stals, “Dragging Oneself Over the Threshold of the Exhibition,” in Exh. Cat., Barcelona, Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona, Mike Kelley: 1985-1996, 1997, p. 17)

Radical in thought and execution, Kelley oscillated between installation and performance art with an astounding plurality, defying containment within a specific practice. Visually striking and conceptually astounding, Cave Painting operates as an early declaration of Kelley’s singular reappraisal of the modern and postmodern narratives of Western art; the artist would return to this theme again the following year in his iconic work Plato’s Cave, Rothko’s Chapel, Lincoln’s Profile, an innovative immersive installation that asked viewers to enter through a darkened doorway. The appeal of Kelley’s furtive, subterranean world is best articulated by the late artist himself: “Let's go down into the chapel of my basement—the shadowed domain of the tinkering genius. [T]hat which lies on the surface is often not of the same material as that which lies below it." (Mike Kelley, “Urban Gothic,” (1985) in Foul Perfection: Essays and Criticism, 2002, p. 9)

Contemporary Art Evening Auction

|
New York