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Posts Tagged ‘Mike Kelley’

Paper Trail

December 2, 2014 | by

The invitation card for Claes Oldenburg's Store, New York, 1961.

Three years ago, PPP Editions published a limited-edition book called 100 Fanzines / 10 Years of British Punk 1976–1985. I have a copy and keep intending to give it to any number of friends who know more about the Clash, the Mo-dettes, or Attila the Stockbroker than I do, but I haven’t yet handed it over. I certainly wasn’t a fixture of the Thatcher-era punk scene, but I nonetheless feel nostalgic when I look through the book. The cover of Verbal Warfare no. 1, from 1981, contains the line “Beware of the serpent that twines around the cross … his body, the living dead at their production lines,” and I notice that it’s written in a script that resembles my sister’s eighth-grade cursive. I’m transfixed by the the ratty hand-drawn graphics and raw, energetic designs, not to mention the silliness and badassery of titles like Ignorance of the Unborn, Terminal Illiteracy, Surrey Vomet, and Raisin ’ell (number 10 is the special “This issue sucks!” edition). I also love the zines’ materiality: the staples in the bindings, the softly foxed corners, the smudges, visible erasure marks, and toner streaks. The idea that these are at once mass-produced publications (you can almost feel a phantom photocopier heat coming off the page) and rare objects—always already ephemeral—is fascinating.

The very notion of ephemera is curious: objects of little value that weren’t meant to be preserved but whose vulnerability, I imagine, appealed to someone. Political buttons, business cards, seed packets, and train timetables—scrappy artifacts that otherwise would have been lost to the dustheap. Even ephemera’s subcategories—like “fugitive materials” and “gray literature”—are suitably mothy and eccentric. In the art world, potential ephemera is everywhere: small-edition artist books, exhibition posters, flyers, announcement cards, invitations, press releases. The Museum of Modern Art Library, in New York, houses an extensive archive populated by such materials. A photograph of the files at MoMA QNS shows reams of folders that resemble medical records, though a bit of feathery orange fluff peeping out from one folder suggests something less sober. Through its sheer volume, the archive offers a minihistory of art and of individual artists.

David Senior, a bibliographer at MoMA Library, curated an exhibition around the archive; “Please Come to the Show” was on view last year in New York and earlier this year at the Exhibition Research Centre in Liverpool. It must have been fun digging through all the files and (re)discovering canon-adjacent materials like Claes Oldenburg’s blue, slightly stained business card/invitation to The Store; Nancy Spero’s pugnacious, textual invitation to “Torture of Women”; and an announcement, addressed to Frank O’Hara, of the premier of Warhol’s film Empire (admission: two dollars). Read More »

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Staff Picks: Dimensions, Defacements, Darkness

October 24, 2014 | by

kelley

Mike Kelley, Reconstructed History, 1989, ink and collage on paper, framed, in fifty parts, 11" x 8.5" each. © The Estate of Mike Kelley/Mike Kelley Foundation for the Arts

It is strangely relaxing to visit Frankfurt during the book fair, if you’re not in the book business. While actual publishers were staying out late and getting up early and speed-reading manuscripts on their phones, I got to visit Lucy Raven’s 3-D film installation, “Curtains,” at Portikus gallery, confirming my own suspicion that I do not, in fact, see in 3-D. (Everything was flat and red—or flat and blue if I squinted.) I also got to read the first three books of Anthony Powell’s A Dance to the Music of Time. It was my third attempt on Powell’s twelve-volume comedy of manners, and I could see what defeated me before—the fake-Proustian “philosophizing,” the unparsable sentences and cavalier grammar, the complete lack of believable erotic feeling, the endless talk about characters who never rise above caricature. The whole thing is amateurish in a way that only English novels like to be. And yet Powell has a genius for physical space. He can seat an entire dinner party so you remember who’s sitting where or show four friends walking down the street in such a way that you can tell, at all times, who’s walking next to whom. It’s magic. His characters may be strictly 2-D, but you always know where they are. —Lorin Stein

Last week I went to a show at Skarstedt Gallery to see a show of work by the late Mike Kelley. Kelley was a genius of an artist; to my mind, he is a genius of an artist, even though, of course, we will get no more new work from him. That present tense may be partly due to the fact that since his death, I’ve seen art by him that I hadn’t previously seen—like the installation at Skarstedt, which comprised fifty small, framed illustrations torn from American history textbooks and defaced by Kelley. The doodles are lewd and juvenile—he has Alexander Hamilton making a pass at George Washington and a signatory barfing on the Declaration of Independence—graffiti appropriate to the bored teenagers who likely suffered through the books. It’s a smart, astute work and very funny (a combination no artist does better than Kelley), but what really got me was the wall text, which was taken from Kelley’s introduction to a book of these images, published in 1990. This too-sober text turns an idealized view of American history and patriotism on its head: “Such childish resentment is the cause of the defacements presented here. The inability to accept their lower position in the order of things provokes these ‘artists’ to drag back to the surface garbage long buried–to sully, vandalize, and render inoperable our pictures of health,” he writes, adding, “Not that such a tactic is always bad.” —Nicole Rudick

“ ‘I get really affected by bestiality with children,’ she says … ‘I have to stop for a moment and loosen up, maybe go to Starbucks and have a coffee.’ She laughs at the absurd juxtaposition of a horrific sex crime and an overpriced latte.” That’s Adrien Chen in the latest issue of Wired, looking at the vast labor force (“well over 100,000”) devoted to “content moderation,” the purgation of offensive material from our social networks. If you’ve ever wondered why your YouTube experience never shades into sadism or pornography, you have content moderators to thank. Our demand for a whitewashed Internet—an uncontaminated “content stream”—comes at a steep human cost. Imagine if it were your full-time job to watch pornography, beheadings, torture, hate: the whole gamut of id and primeval desire, eight hours a day, forty hours a week. As Chen describes them, these laborers—that seems to me the only word for them, even if they’re handsomely remunerated—are at once desensitized and permanently scarred; he’s not overstating things when he writes that they’ve been “staring into the heart of human darkness.” One wants to cry foul here: Is it really necessary to expose so many people to such constant atrocity? Chen’s reporting presents a Gordian knot of ethics and exploitation. —Dan Piepenbring
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Slang and Secrets: Happy Monday!

May 14, 2012 | by

  • The ten most-read books in the world.
  • Caleb Crain: “Like poetry and pornography, slang is easier to recognize than to define. Most of it is disapproved of by someone, but obscenity alone doesn’t qualify. It isn't slang, for example, to refer to manure with a four-letter word. But if you put the article ‘the’ in front of that four-letter word and equate the president-elect of the United States to it, then slang it is, and very complimentary.”
  • After seventy years, the identity of Lorca’s lover is revealed.
  • In honor of late artist Mike Kelley, a replica of his home.
  • Speaking of homes, Updike’s will become a museum.
  • Walking with George Bernard Shaw.
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    A Week in Culture: Dan Nadel, Publisher, Part 2

    November 23, 2010 | by

    This is the second installment of Nadel’s culture diary. Click here to read part 1.

    DAY THREE

    I realize this journal is meant to be cultural, but I swear, a ton of my daily doings are more like the “business” of culture. Or like being the janitor of the business. Or something. That’s what I did for most of the day until I went to Penn Station to pick up Brian and Christopher. A couple sandwiches later, we were en route to a bookstore in Williamsburg, where the guys did a stock signing. This is when authors sign a stack of books so customers will, hopefully, buy them faster.

    Then it was dinner with Gary Panter, his wife, Helene Silverman (designer of many of my books), and their daughter, Olive. The two dudes love Gary as a spiritual north star of sorts, and Gary has, after thirty-five years, finally found artistic progeny he can be proud of. It’s a lovefest.

    We always look at stuff together. Piles of stuff. Today’s piles consisted of books and ephemera by Jack Kirby, Mike Kelley, Willy Fleckhaus, Heinz Edelmann, Irwin Hasen, Troy Brauntuch, and Moebius.

    Stray thought: The problem (or, flipped, the pleasure) of being involved with a funky little subculture like comic books is that you have to deal with a level of absurdity so high that it’s like the gods are constantly fucking with you just for kicks. In other words, ninety percent of the “serious” books on the topic have introductions by TV stars or are filled with absurd claims of greatness. Rarely are comics left alone to be a medium unto itself.

    DAY FOUR

    I really admire good publicists. This week, oddly, I’m just a pale imitation of one, but it’s hard to both hustle these books and the authors and also, y’know, think about them, too. Or, uh, think about anything else at all.

    Morning finds the guys asleep on my living-room floor. They’re both kinda tall, so they take up an absurd amount of space in the room. Over coffee and tea we have a friendly nerdfest in the morning discussing something Dan Clowes recently said to the effect of reconciling himself to the reality of comics history. Which is to say, understanding that there are few thoroughly “great” works or artists to be found, as in film or literature. There aren’t many Jim Thompsons or Philip Dicks to “rediscover” and tout as transcending their genres. Instead, we pick through the bins for a great storytelling device or wonky approach to drawing, or some freakishly good art-text combo by a hack, picking our pleasures and fascinations within a single comic book or even just an eight-page story.

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