Hauser & Wirth in New York presents an exhibition of America artist Mike Kelley entitles “Memory Ware”.
Featuring almost two dozen sculptures and mosaics, most of which are on loan from museums and significant international private collections, the works on display explore the vagaries of memory as well as showcase Kelley’s extraordinary talent in reusing, re-purposing and re-contextualizing materials and ideas.
In his career which spanned over 30 years, Kelley worked on every conceivable medium—from painting, sculpture and photography to performances, music and video—drawing inspiration from American pop culture and appropriating modernism’s structures to conflate high and low culture, mush up the sacred and the profane, and critique the prevailing aesthetic. Tackling themes as diverse as class relations, contemporary sexuality, repressed memory, religion and politics, with incisive erudition and self-deprecating humour, Kelley is considered one of the most influential and pivotal American artists from the past quarter century.
Comprising more than 100 works created between 2000 and 2010, Kelley’s “Memory Ware” series borrows its name and aesthetics from folk art found in black communities in the American South and Victorian Britain in which bottles and other vessels were decorated with sentimental keepsakes such as buttons, beads and charms, embedded in a coating of clay.
As Ralph Rugoff, director of London’s Hayward Gallery, explains “given his existing interest in remembrance and in re-purposing materials with prior histories [see for example, ‘More Love Hours Than Can Ever Be Repaid and The Wages of Sin’, one of Kelley’s most famous works from 1987 featuring a mess of used rag dolls, stuffed animals and blankets strewn across a canvas], as well as his long-term engagement with the aesthetics of craft and folk art, Kelley recognized in this find [at a Toronto antiques fair in 2000] the possibilities for developing new works that deployed the memory ware aesthetic towards very different ends”.
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