Final critical review of Mike Kelly’s retrospective at PS1

Mike Kelly was an artist who never resonated much with me and I had very limited exposure to his practice. I think the only work of his I was really familiar with were the stuffed animal balls and a few other odds pieces. I did back flips after leaving Kelly’s retrospective. I couldn’t imagine how much I was missing out by not exploring his work earlier.

It’s tough to unpack my experience at PS1 as it was all at once hilarious, sublime, and deeply troubling. I’m a sucker for a good tragedy and with Kelly’s suicide looming in recent memory, I found myself projecting a funerary tint on the whole show. Floor after floor I was smacked in the face with Kelly’s psyche and in the same breath the psyche of one mans slice of the American experience. What I found most fascinating was his ability to seamlessly merge humor and childhood with violence, sex, and the gaping depths of sadness and death.  I found the show to be very well curated as it managed to give each body of work room to live. It allowed me to consider the enormous breadth of Mike Kelly’s work as well as experience each period isolated and uninterrupted.

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The balls-Swastika was a big hit for me.

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I felt like I could have spent months revisiting this exhibition. If I lived in New York I probably would. It had to have been one of, if not the best show I’ve ever seen.

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