Mike Kelley’s Kandor series and E.A.R.P. at Gagosian (Beverly Hills 2011)

Mike Kelly's Kandor sculpture series at Gagosian Beverly Hills

MIKE KELLEY:  Kandor 10/Extracurricular Activity Projective Reconstruction #34 Kandor 12/Extracurricular Activity Projective Reconstruction #35 at Gagosian Beverly Hills (Los Angeles)

This exhibition marks the first gallery show by Mike Kelley in Los Angeles since showing at Patrick Painter at Bergamot Station several years ago. It represents the shift in the LA artworld at its uppermost strata from being a center of art production to also being the market for that production, as did the recent debut show of Paul McCarthy at L&M Arts in Venice, on the property where the famed LA science fiction novelist Ray Bradbury lived during the 1950’s in Los Angeles.

Mike Kelley Kandor series

In the year 2000, Mike Kelly launched his Extra Activity Projective Reconstruction project. The details are here, from Artforum magazine (by John Welchman, Oct. 2005, from 1,000 Words, Mike Kelly talks about “Day is Done.”)

“Thirty-two down, 333 to go. Back in 2000, Mike Kelley unveiled Extracurricular Activity Projective Reconstruction #1 (A Domestic Scene), the first installment of an ongoing, gargantuan serial work that will eventually comprise 365 video pieces, each with its own set, or sculptural component. Next month, “Day Is Done,” Kelley’s first solo show at Gagosian Gallery in New York, will assemble an ambitious multiplex of thirty-one videos and associated sculptural “stations” (Extracurricular Activity Projective Reconstructions #2-32, 2004-2005) that the artist has made since.”

“The Extracurricular Activity Projective Reconstruction series of videos arose from my desire to fill in the blanks in Educational Complex, 1995 (an architectural model made up of every school I have ever attended), with some kind of action. The blank areas represent all the locations within these buildings that I couldn’t remember. The videos are false memories of “trauma” associated with these sites. I wanted these to consist of a very generic filler of shared cultural experiences. While some of this content and its detail might be subjective, at core it’s recognizable to almost everybody: popular forms of entertainment and social rituals.”

“The imagery is derived from photos of extracurricular activities found in high-school yearbooks. I developed a “plot,” if you can call it that, by building image connections between a set number of photographs from the hundreds I have collected. I worked with a limited group of iconographic motifs–specifically, goth and Halloween imagery and religious spectacles.”

by Mike Kelly

Just a couple of weeks ago I heard a narrative in Los Angeles on the radio about the birth of the Superman comics. I was astonished to be told that Superman is an invention by two sixteen year olds from Cleveland, Ohio, (writer Jerry Siegel and Joel Schuster) where I too was born and raised. The radio narrative reported that Jerry Siegel’s was murdered in 1932. The young man then dreamed of a magical suit that would have protected his father.

The gravesite of Mitchell Siegel, father of writer/creator of Superman comic, Joel Siegel, of Cleveland, Ohio

This late 1933 cover design, not published until decades later, shows an early Superman stopping a robbery. It’s the first time Siegel and Shuster show their character as a hero. Those who think Siegel’s father’s death helped inspire Superman’s crime-fighting point to this image as evidence. (Cleveland magazine, January, 2009)

Superman comic Jerry Siegel's home in Cleveland, Ohio

Closeup photo of Superman symbol on the Cleveland home.

First ever Superman comic book

Here is the text of from a writer who saw the show in NYC that this current show is derived from.

(This show)”…is a combination of two earlier works, Kandors (1999) and Extracurricular Activity Projective Reconstruction (EAPR) (2006). Recently known for exemplifying what art critic Jerry Saltz coined as “clusterfuck aesthetics,” Kelley continues his explorations of the grotesque pop cultural diaspora. The titling of this new show alone indicates Kelley’s continued interest in clusterfuck art: the scrambled code of his earlier works, barely intelligible key words that read like an internet pop up.”

“The Kandors series imagines Superman’s native city, Krypton. In the comic books Krypton is never consistently illustrated, its fragmented nature the point of departure for Kelley’s sculptures. Kelley has made multiple versions of Krypton, all of which are embedded with a reliquary-like quality. They are precious, Kelley’s Kryptons, but also seethe with a dark quality. Like much of his work, the Kandors solicits the somber from our collective past. Working with nostalgic themes, the narratives of the American yesteryear, Kelley highlights the potentially evil. The Kandors places Superman, one of the most recognizable American stories, under his black light. Kelley doesn’t draw any conclusions about Superman or its effect on the American psyche in his work—rather it is the hypothetical, the possibilities of Krypton, that tug on our collective origins.”

“Kelley’s EAPR series, first shown at Day is Done in 2005, draw on a similar, formative American memory. The videos derive from what Kelley refers to as “folk performances,” everyday spectacles documented in photographs in local newspapers and yearbooks. The two videos in EAPR #34 are taken from images of a school or community play, in which a “royal” male character presides over a female harem. In another, a female queen character humiliates a male servant. EAPR #35 is solely a group of gnome characters moving about aimlessly in a cell. Both works are shown at the Gagosian with their original sets. Kelley again brings up the repressed, often disturbing images from the collective past. Pulled from narrative, EAPR #34questions how we publicly perform, and subsequently control, gender. In Kelley’s hands, isolated from the original source and re-performed, it is a surreal and sinister vision of our shared fables. The gnomes perhaps, simply run around aimlessly like a suburban daydream.” E. C. Feiss


The crime that created Superman

By David Colton – USA Today

“On the night of June 2, 1932, the world’s first superhero was born — not on the mythical planet of Krypton, but from a little-known tragedy on the streets of Cleveland.

“It was Thursday, about 8:10 p.m., and Mitchell Siegel, a Jewish immigrant from Lithuania, was in his secondhand clothing store on the near East Side. According to a police report, three men entered. One asked to see a suit of clothes and walked out without paying for it. In the commotion of the robbery, Siegel, 60, fell to the ground and died.”

“The police report mentions a gunshot being heard. But the coroner, the police and Siegel’s wife said Siegel died of a heart attack. No one was ever arrested.”

“It was just a year after Mitchell Siegel’s death, 1933, that writer Siegel and artist Shuster came up with “The Superman,” a grim, flying avenger they tried to sell to newspaper syndicates and publishers for five years. In the oldest surviving artwork, this early Superman, whom they call “the most astounding fiction character of all time,” flies to the rescue of a man who is being held up by a masked robber.”

“Was it Jerry’s alter ego flying to rescue his helpless father?”

“America did not get Superman from our greatest legends, but because a boy lost his father,” Meltzer said. “Superman came not out of our strength, but out of our vulnerability.”

“The more Meltzer looked, the more intriguing things became. A letter published in The Plain Dealer of Cleveland on June 3, 1932, the day after the robbery, denounced the need for vigilantes in the harsh days of the Depression. The letter is signed by an A.L. Luther.”

“Is that where (Superman foe) Lex Luthor came from?” Meltzer said. “I almost had a heart attack right there. I thought, “You have to be kidding me!’”


The rest of the saga of Siegel and Shuster is better known, but no less tragic. It wasn’t until 1938 that the familiar red-and-blue-garbed Superman appeared on the cover of “Action Comics” No. 1. The creators got a check for $130. In return, DC Comics acquired rights to the character “forever.”

“Shuster died in 1992 and Siegel in 1996, but their legal battles have been never-ending. In March, a court ruled that Siegel’s heirs (wife Joanne and daughter Laura) were entitled to parts of the billion-dollar Superman copyright. Because of the ongoing litigation, neither the families nor DC Comics would comment, not even about Mitchell Siegel’s death 76 years ago or its implications.”

Superman, invented in 1933 in Cleveland, Ohio

Here now is a story from the Wall Street Journal that relates how one of Mike Kelly’s collector’s of he Kandor series has enlivened Munich’s collecting and contemporary museum scene.

“Kandor” (2007), by American artist Mike Kelly, is a mixed-media installation and one of nine Kelly works in the Brandhorst collection. Mr. Kelly was influenced by the Superman comics of his childhood and produced a series of works named after the fictional capital city of the planet Krypton. Hoses feeding an unnamed gas into oversized test tubes fill the room with their orange and purple glow. Inside, a crystalline city emerges and an eerie sound fills the gallery.”

‘Munich’s new Museum Brandhorst, which opened this week in a striking new building designed by Berlin architects Sauerbruch Hutton — and backed with a €120 million grant to fund future acquisitions — aims to vault this Bavarian city into the contemporary-art big leagues.”

“After World War II, only six contemporary art works had survived the Nazi purges of Munich’s museums. Now with the Pinakothek der Moderne and the Brandhorst, the city has two highly visible palaces devoted to 20th- and 21st-century art.”

text is by Mariana Schroede/Wall Street Journal/Weekend


Munich's Museum Brandhorst of contemporary art

This video projection of what seemed to be a jar containing a sort of mythical, humming, buzzing, lightning bolt fast moving creatures, inside of the jar. For it was the most strange, unique and marvel inducing aspect of the entire gigantic exhibition, which is a new high for Los Angeles, as now LA Art Star artists are showcasing their works right in the City of Los Angeles, as versus only in NYC galleries.

Mike Kelly's Kandor series

“In 1960, Siegel went back to work for Superman’s publisher and wrote some of his best work. In Superman #141, Superman is accidentally sent back in time to Krypton, where he tries (but fails) to save his parents and his home planet. Through Superman’s grief, Siegel expressed his own.” Cleveland magazine, January 2009

Mike Kelley's Kandor series showcases Superman's world in a bottle

There was for me this sense of being in an alternate universe, full of jarring and alternately calming narratives.

Mike Kelley's Kandor series

Mike Kelley's cave was invited to peek into, yet it looked a great deal like and is similar in scale to Kaari Upson's cave sculpture, that we saw in Miami at the Rubell Family Collection this past December, 2010


One aspect of Kelley’s show seemed to be the use of stage props being placed throughout this enormous and swords crossing installation. Kelley is building not only upon multiple prior narratives, he is also using video to stand in for the several performances he has produced that further expand his projected narrative. For context I’ve provided reviews of E.A.R.P. 32, which was performed at the historic performance space Judson Church, in Greenwich Village, New York City  as part of Performa 09.

Mike Kelley: Extracurricular Activity Projective Reconstruction #32, Plus


Mike Kelley’s Extracurricular Activity Projective Reconstruction #32, Plus was one of the last things I saw in my biennial binge of performance art, and I couldn’t have asked for a better one to end with. Based on ‘Day is Done’, his 2005 exhibition at Gagosian in Chelsea, Kelley’s hour-long dance explosion was an upbeat, odd and entertaining trip to a stranger-than-strange fiction high school experience filled with rock and roll, basketball, marching bands, muscular naked men, and lots and lots of Mike Kelley.


Fittingly set in a grimy gymnasium beneath the Judson Memorial Church, the piece wasn’t prim or proper or even that practiced – in the closing moments a sweaty-handed Kelley accidentally fired a hand bell that he was swinging in to the audience – but it was a party, a loud, outrageous one, the kind you’re happy enough to leave, then wonder about while tucked safley in bed. Good night.

Graham T. Beck

Graham T. Beck is a writer based in New York.


All photos: Mike Kelley, Extracurricular Activity Projective Reconstruction #32, Plus, 2009, a Performa Commission. Photos by Paula Court, Courtesy of Performa

Mike Kelley, Extracurricular Activity Projective Reconstruction #32, Plus, Performa 09 Commission
17 November 2009, Judson Memorial Church

by Joshua Mack

Inspired by Day is Done, his loopy redux of American high school rituals and performances based on images in old yearbooks, the fourteen vignettes Kelley strung together in this seventy-five minute agony could have been brilliant. For anyone who went to school in the last seventy five years or has sat through the earnest performance of a beloved child, Kelley’s marching bands, dancers wearing papier mache horse heads, and sylvan dryad in green velvet robe and plastic flower wreath were familiar stuff, as was the brick walled, over heated basement gym in which the performance took place. Fecund material for exploring aging, social bonding, the dreams and disappointments that shape us when we are young. And clearly Kelley’s intention was to wrest some deeper truth from his renditions of these hokey skits. Take the program note for #13, Empty Gym: “… a sensitive evocation of the lonely unpopulated gymnasium of lost youth.”

That may be what the artist intended, but instead, the piece had the quality of a joke repeated too often and too insistently. The opening sequence of four girls simulating a basketball practice dragged on and on. Their whooping calls of “Yee Haw!” came off as a mean spirited, classist, insider joke. Flora, the Forest Sprite, traipsed about exuding pseudo-creepy chants through a microphone in three of the fourteen ‘acts.’ In “The Offer” based on an ad for a sound activated switch, a 12 piece brass band marched around while a caller riffed on the jingle, “Clap on clap off, the clapper.” But after the third of fourth iteration, “Gobe on gobe off, the Gober,” “Reef on reef off, the reefer,” “Janit on janit off, the janitor”, the joke fizzled. But the band kept on playing and playing and playing.

And then there were the times that Kelley danced around the gym wearing a straw hat festooned with plastic flowers, smiling like the cat who swallowed the canary, or blew bubbles in a pail of water. I’m glad he was having such a grand time, but the point of performance is to go beyond oneself and give something to the audience. Instead, Kelley’s performance was like suffering adolescent boys who think other people will be as amused by their farts as they are.

Performa 09 | Double Trouble (NYTimes T Magazine)


| NOVEMBER 20, 2009, 4:41 PM

mike kelleyPhoto by Paula Court / Courtesy of PerformaA scene from Mike Kelley’s “Extracurricular Activity Projective Reconstruction #32, Plus.”

Entertainment used to be anathema to performance art, which can often seem more like an endurance test. But Performa 09, which runs through this weekend, has given us a breed of less self-indulgent artists for whom audience pleasure is paramount. Witness the exhilarating, back-to-back appearances last night by Mike Kelley and Terence Koh. Though the title of his work, “Extracurricular Activity Projective #32, Plus,” suggested more of the same-old-same, Kelley brought nudity, horseplay and a Bourbon Street-style marching band to the basketball court at Judson Church, the epicenter of postmodern dance.

With two bands providing hooflike beats and theremin tones, the concert began with four female dancers in sweats dribbling a basketball in prancing steps that gave a nod to the pedestrian choreography (by Kate Foley) associated with the Judson. Enter a vocalist in a flowing gown accompanying a room-filling wall of graduated reverb drones with a multipart chorale of sound. A dozen horn players then took the floor to recall the heraldic fanfares of television news shows. As lights dimmed, four strapping musclemen in their birthday suits — Kelley’s idea of stagehands — circulated in the space (so everyone could see them close up) and set up a 20-foot ladder.

Led by a drum major in a black suit chanting “Zip on, zip off the zipper” in drill-sergeant rhythm, the horn players returned to form a pyramid on it. The dancers reappeared to pantomime a courtship ritual. Before long Kelley himself kneeled at center court to play a blowgun through a miked pail of water, later joining the band for a joyous, rag-waving parade. Joy, in fact, was the point of the show, actually based on found photographs and snippets of obscure music. Whatever else it meant, Kelley accurately created “a fantastic world superimposed on reality,” the title of the festival of noise music he is presenting tonight and tomorrow at the Blender Theater.

After treating audiences to a buffet of hors d’oeuvres crawling with ants, the artist Terence Koh (formerly asianpunkboy) took the lectern at the National Arts Club to offer a dizzying lesson in art history. Dressed in his characteristic white suit, he faced an audience that included Vito Schnabel, Mary Boone, Will Cotton and Marina Abramovic, gesticulating for 45 minutes before a slide show that ran from Rembrandt, Velázquez, Goya and Vermeer through Duchamp, Malevich, Cornell and Bacon to Mapplethorpe, Goldin and Hirst, moving from beauty to war, queer politics, sex, religion, AIDS and performance art itself. All of this was delivered in excited, rapid-fire gibberish. Somehow it was both funny and moving, even kind of genius. As one wag put it at the end of the show, “Nice to know we’ve reached the end of art.” And survived it with style.

mike kelley
Photo by Paula Court / Courtesy of PerformaLed by a drum major, horn players formed a pyramid in Mike Kelley’s piece.

” A veteran of the Los Angeles conceptual art scene, Kelley uses deconstructive strategies in order to challenge the established norms of contemporary culture, both high and low.” Gagosian press release

“The Kandors, begun in 1999, are representations of Superman’s city of birth, the only remaining part of his home planet, Krypton. In the well-known comic books, Superman saved the miniaturized city in a bottle fed by a tank of atmosphere. Kandor’s depiction in these narratives is inconsistent and fragmentary, prompting Kelley to create multiple versions of it, cast in colorful resins and illuminated like reliquaries. Kandor 10, a yellow city housed in a hand-blown, pink glass bottle, is a grouping of tall skyscrapers situated within a full-scale rock grotto; Kandor 12, constructed in off-white resin and evocative of a group of chess pawns, or minarets, is encased in a shadowy brown bottle, which sits on a platform resembling a Greek column positioned in front of a chest of drawers and an illuminated translucent green wall.”

“The EAPR video series – first shown as the exhibition “Day Is Done” at Gagosian, New York in 2006 – stems from photographs of what Kelley calls “folk performances”—common, often carnivalesque, activities documented in school yearbooks, local newspapers, or home snapshots. The two videos comprising EAPR #34 are based on an image of what appeared to be an amateur stage play, featuring a “royal” male character with his female harem. In one of them, a “King” lords over his harem. In the other, a group of “Queens” demean a male servant. EAPR #35 features a cast of gnome-like characters who shamble around aimlessly in a cell. The videos are presented with the sets in which they were shot. Kelley has described the EAPR videos as defensive shields against the gaps or “repressed trauma” in his Educational Complex (1995), a model of his childhood home and every school he ever attended, merged into one structure.” Gagosian press release.

Mike Kelley, Kandor 19 B, 2010. Foam coated with Elastomer, blown glass with water-based resin coating, tinted Urethane resin, wood, found objects, lighting fixture. 31 1/2 x 49 x 43 inches overall (80 x 124.5 x 109.2 cm). Photo by Fredrik Nilsen. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery

Mike Kelley, Kandor 18 B, 2010. Foam coated with Elastomer , blown glass with water-based resin coating, tinted Urethane resin, wood, found objects, lighting fixture, 87 x 36 x 48 in. Photo by Fredrik Nilsen. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery

Mike Kelley, Kandor 18 B, 2010. Foam coated with Elastomer , blown glass with water-based resin coating, tinted Urethane resin, wood, found objects, lighting fixture, 87 x 36 x 48 in. Photo by Fredrik Nilsen. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery

Certainly the image of Colonel Sander's of Kentucky Fried Chicken, can be considered to be a part of the fiction producing mythology base of America. I did wonder why the Colonel, and not a different personage. I did check to see if the fabrication was at the level of what I had seen at the Madame Tussaud's in New York City in Times Square, which is a sensational exhibition in wax and plastic technologies.

Mike Kelley, Memory Ware #61, 2010. Foam, tinted resin, found jewelry, coffee pot, plastic toys. 47 x 81 x 12 1/2 inches overall (119.4 x 205.7 x 31.8 cm)

Mike Kelley, Kandor 19 B, 2010 (Detail view). Foam coated with Elastomer, blown glass with water-based resin coating, tinted Urethane resin, wood, found objects, lighting fixture. 31 1/2 x 49 x 43 inches overall (80 x 124.5 x 109.2 cm). Photo by Fredrik Nilsen. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery

Mike Kelley, Odalisque, 2010. Foam coated with Elastomer, wood, aluminum, wig, found objects, velvet, cotton batting, 56 x 115 x 30 in. Photo by Fredrik Nilsen. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery


Cleveland, Ohio - Lakeview road tenement, Glenville area (Epson archival print 2010) by Vincent Johnson

Cleveland rooming house, Hough area (2010, Epson archival print, by Vincent Johnson)

Vincent Johnson is an artist and writer in Los Angeles



Biography  January 2011

Vincent Johnson is an artist and writer who lives and works in Los Angeles. His work has been exhibited at Las Cienegas Projects, LAXART, Las Cienegas Projects, the Kellogg Museum at Cal Poly Pomona, the P.S. 1. Museum, the SK Stiftung, Cologne, the Santa Monica Museum of Art, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, the Studio Museum in Harlem, the Adamski Gallery of Contemporary Art, Aachen, the Sacramento Center for Contemporary Art, 18th Street Arts, Santa Monica, Another Year in LA gallery at the Pacific Design Center, Los Angeles and the Boston University Art Gallery. His photographic works engage both significant and neglected historical and contemporary cultural artifacts and is based on intensive research of his subjects. Upcoming is one person show in Copenhagen, a one person show at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and a one person show at Las Cienegas Projects, Los Angeles.
Johnson received his MFA from Art Center College of Design in 1997. He studied with Mike Kelley, Jack Goldstein, Stephen Prina, Liz Larner, Chris Williams, Mayo Thompson (formerly of Art&Language), and Liz Larner. He is a 2005 Creative Capital Grantee, and was nominated for the Baum: An Emerging American Photographer’s Award in 2004 and for the New Museum of Contemporary Arts Aldrich Art Award in 2007 and for the Art Matters grant in 2008, and in 2009 nominated for Foundation for Contemporary Art Fellowship, Los Angeles. In 201o he was named a United States Artists project artist. His work has been reviewed in ArtForum, The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times, and many other publications. Upcoming is a one person show in Copenhagen, a one person show at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and a one person show at Las Cienegas Projects, Los Angeles.

Vincent  Johnson

Artist Statement
Vincent Johnson’s work is a form of sustained cultural mining that explores the depths of his subjects. His photographic works created from 2001-2007 delved into architecture as fantasy, from the vernacular architecture of Los Angeles to that found throughout the American West. He has documented several of the no longer extant commercial vernacular structures in both South Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley that came into existence during the birth of long distance family travel by car. In 2007 he presented a fully fabricated work of sculpture – a 12 foot long six-foot high replica of a 1956 Chrysler Air Raid Siren. This project developed as he was both researching and documenting a former military corridor in the San Fernando Valley that included a retired military airfield. His newest photographic works, all created in 2008 and 2009, are large-scale photographic montages, each of  which confront significant cultural figures and several dramatic signal events of Cold War era Western cultural history, including Television, the launch of Sputnik, the Soviet Space program, American home-based bomb shelter  program, and Vietnam. He is working on large-scale photomontages of the several major American political figures of 1960’s, including Martin Luther King, the Kennedy family, and Malcolm X, as well the representations of both Communism and Capitalism, Hollywood and Los Angeles and many related Cold War era subjects. Johnson’s photomontages can take several months to create as he captures hundreds of images from online sources, before selecting those which most well index a particular historical moment, personage or event. The creative juxtapositions and scale shifts of the found images is what he most relies on to develop his potent and illuminating photographic works.

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