Mike Kelley (1954-2012)
Mike Kelley (1954-2012)

Missing Time Color Exercise (reversed) No.5 (Resonating Stone Walls)

Mike Kelley (1954-2012)
Missing Time Color Exercise (reversed) No.5 (Resonating Stone Walls)
thirty-two Sex to Sexty magazines and acrylic on panel, in artist's frame
47 x 81 x 2 ¼ in. (119.4 x 205.7 x 5.7 cm.)
Executed in 2002.
Metro Pictures, New York
Private collection, New York
Perry Rubenstein Gallery, New York
David Zwirner Gallery, New York
Anon. sale; Christie's, New York, 12 May 2011, lot 378
Private collection, Miami
Acquired from the above by the present owner
J. Welchman, Mike Kelley: Minor Histories, Statements, Conversations, Proposals, Athens, 2004, p. 102.
New York, Metro Pictures, Mike Kelley: Reversals, Recyclings, Completions and Late Additions, November-December 2002.
New York, The Core Club, September 2005-February 2006.

Lot Essay

Creatively confronting what Mike Kelley describes as ‘repressed memory syndrome,’ Missing Time Color Exercise (reversed) No. 5 (Resonating Stone Walls) is a wry reimagining of the artist’s early life, performing a perverse exercise in minimalist seriality and lowbrow frivolity. A chronological collection of issues of Sex to Sexty, among the most vulgar magazines of its time – enjoyed by a readership of largely working-class rural American men between 1965 and 1983 – forms his material: arranged in a 9 x 4 grid with the bottom right four panels occluded by a trompe-l’oeil stone wall, the magazines present a cacophony of vernacular smut and psychic excavation. The thirty-two successive issues are each sealed off from one another by their wood and Plexiglas frames, enacting the ordering principle of memory; the carefully painted stone wall gestures towards memory lost or repressed, a dead end in the attempt to collect, categorize, and control. The initial works from the Missing Time Color Exercise series, which takes its title from the scientific term for time ‘lost’ in the suppression of traumatic memories, replaced missing comic book covers from Kelley’s collection with monochrome panels: a deliberate violation of the grids and color charts of Gerhard Richter, Josef Albers or Sol LeWitt. The (Reversed) works are a companion series, created after Kelley was given the issues absent from his initial collection; with the stone wall in the present work, he similarly mutinies the clean minimalism of his gridded display. In an obsessive, knowingly absurd effort to recycle and revive experiences, locations, and objects of his past, Kelley creates a strange and enthralling spectacle of personal ritual, psychic interiority and formal study that takes to task our deepest assumptions about art.

Combining traditional materials with objects such as magazines, stuffed toys, puppets, and wax figures, Kelley’s memorial explorations blur the boundaries between art and artifact. As much as he conjures a prurient fascination for the workings of his subconscious in the gaudy imagery of Sex to Sexty, the keynote to his work lies in his testing of art’s imperatives as a mode of understanding and organizing. "I am not 'going back' to reclaim some longed for positive experience from my youth, but to reexamine, from an adult point of view, some aesthetic experience that I feel I was unable to understand at that time...I suppose you could say that I derive some kind of pleasure from this looking back, which could be associated with nostalgia. But I would have to say that I believe this pleasure results more from my enjoyment of the playful, formal, and perverse games of reconstructing and inventing the past than it does from some joyful recovery of lost experience’ (M. Kelley, quoted in ‘Black Nostalgia: An Interview with Mike Kelley by Daniel Kothenschulte,’ in D. Kothenschulte (ed.), Mike Kelley, Peter Fischli, David Weiss, exh. cat. Sammlung-Goetz, Ostfildern-Ruit 2000, p. 30). These ‘playful, formal, and perverse games’ come to the fore in the present work. Each cover of the magazine, complete with Pierre Davis’s characteristic ribald illustrations, is no more or less puerile or garish than the last, making a riotous parody of Donald Judd’s geometry or Carl Andre’s gridded floor pieces: lewd hillbilly humor literally invades the boundaries of high culture.

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