With its shimmering mosaic surface, Memory Ware Flat No. 48 provides a stunning exemplar of Mike Kelley's celebrated eponymous series started in 2000. In the present body of works, Mike Kelley references the Canadian folk tradition of decorating common objects with miscellanea of items. Kelley translates this trivial practice into paintings of rare beauty where the surface is a collection of infinity colourful objects, such as buttons, pins, shells, costume jewellery and charms.
By choosing common and often inexpensive trinkets, Mike Kelley meditates on their social role as sacral depository of fond memories not only in Canadian culture but in the all Western world. As explained by the artist, the "usage of this material seems appropriate given the 'repressed memory' references in my work." (the artist cited in his statement accompanying the exhibition Detroit, Institute of Arts, Artists Take On Detroit, 2001). In 1995, Mike Kelley created the project Educational Complex, symbolically reconstructing from his memory models of his house and the school he attended. The buildings resulted in having blank areas for the parts Kelley had in the meantime forgotten. The artist believes that these areas are linked to the repressed-memory-syndrome which is generated by abuses of institutional systems. By tracing autobiographical traumas into very minimal and poetical sculptures, Kelley seeks to critique as well the idea of utopian architecture, in this case applied to the educative system. In the Memory Ware Flat series, Kelley re-elaborates the idea of repressed memories in relation to the mnemonic properties of souvenirs used to decorate objects.
Born in Detroit in 1954, Mike Kelley has been a pioneering point of reference for the Los-Angeles art scene since 1970s, working as well in music and being very involved in performance art, refusing to adapt to the language of Pop-Art in vogue at the time. Having already started to work with craft materials in 1980s, in the present series Kelley seeks to explore the process of the materialist ritual of collecting memory wares from which his paintings are generated. Kelley perceives the poetic of his art from critical reading aspects of reality. As he explained: "I have a more critical relationship to mass culture. I am not solely interested in arresting visuals; I am more interested in questioning the conventions of reading within a given genre." (The artist cited in: John C. Welchman, et al., Mike Kelley, London 1999, p. 14). In the present work, Kelley masterfully translates his involvement in setting new parameters in Contemporary Art-discourse. Monumentally beautiful and attention-grabbing, Memory Ware Flat No. 48 is spectacular for the golden-reflective effect of its mosaics where the abstract uniformity of the composition is ruptured by the rich details of a variety of minute elements.
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