Mike Kelley: Eternity is a Long Time at HangarBicocca, Milan

Mike Kelley: Eternity is a Long Time at HangarBicocca, Milan

Eternity is a Long Time, an exhibition devoted to the American artist, Mike Kelley who helped trace out new avenues in the history of contemporary art is currently on display at HangarBicocca, the contemporary art space promoted and supported by Pirelli until 8 September . The exhibition is curated by Emi Fontana, a Mike Kelley expert and independent curator based in Los Angeles, and Andrea Lissoni, curator at HangarBicocca.

Eternity is a Long Time offers an unprecedented opportunity to examine the work of the late Mike Kelley (Detroit, 1954 – Los Angeles, 2012), focusing on his installations, videos and sculptures mainly from 2000 to 2006, a period of enormous creative maturity in his career. The exhibition interacts with the huge industrial spaces of HangarBicocca, a former site with more than 15,000 square meters, that was built to manufacture electric train motor bobbins with a series of fundamental works that have rarely been shown in public. The works have been loaned by some of the leading international institutions and collections, including the Museo Reina Sofía in Madrid, Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary in Vienna, and the François Pinault Collection in Paris and Venice. The works included are of great intensity and perfectly represent the complex, visionary universe of the artist, who is considered one of the most influential figures in contemporary art and a role model for the new generations of artists.

The project is given an unmistakable touch by Emi Fontana, the Italian curator who lives in Los Angeles and worked closely with Mike Kelley during the last fifteen years of his life.

Eternity is a Long Time, has been conceived as a way of coming to grips with the artist’s complex and highly diverse body of work, while simultaneously creating the opportunity to examine the fascinating web of cultural aspects and autobiographical memories that are so engrained in his art. These include his relationship with education, his links with modernist architecture, his view of the tradition of painting and of American literature, and his approach to the vernacular, popular culture, youthful initiatory rites and styles of musical subcultures. The exhibition occupies the entirety of the vast spaces of HangarBicocca, and is arranged in an open, non-chronological order, which underlines the sense of continuity in Mike Kelley’s art. It also shows how he was able to enter with the most amazing freedom and eclecticism into different expressive genres, ranging from installation to sculpture, through to performance and video, sound and drawing.

The exhibition opens with Extracurricular Activity Projective Reconstruction #1 (Domestic Scene) (2000) (on loan from François Pinault Foundation) and Runway for Interactive DJ Event (on loan from Collezione La Gaia), two significant installations that were shown together at Mike Kelley’s first solo exhibition in Italy at the Galleria Emi Fontana in Milan in 2000. In the video titled Extracurricular Activity Projective Reconstruction #1 (Domestic Scene) one of the two protagonists utters the phrase, “Eternity is a long time” to his partner before both of them take their own lives. It is this work that gives the exhibition its title. These two works provide a powerful opening to the exhibition as each constitute a fundamental turning point in the artist’s work and each were created at the dawn of his most prolific period.

One of the key works in the exhibition is the John Glenn Memorial Detroit River Reclamation Project (Including The Local Culture Pictorial Guide, 1968-1972, Wayne/Westland Eagle) (on loan from Rennie Collection) installation of 2001, which takes inspiration from a monument to the astronaut John Glenn, after whom the high school Mike Kelley attended is named. The fragments of coloured ceramic and glass covering the sculpture were picked up by Kelley in the river in Detroit. Sophisticated, artistic techniques and typically vernacular processes, the monuments of tradition and anti-monumentality, personal and collective memory, and a media-based world of the imagination and pop culture all come together in this emblematic work.

Mike Kelley, Eternity is a Long Time, 24 May until 8 September, HangarBicocca, Via Chiese 2, 20126 Milano. www.hangarbicocca.org


1. Mike Kelley, Extracurricular Activity Projective Reconstruction #1 (A domestic Scene), Installation View 2000. © Estate of Mike Kelley. Courtesy HangarBicocca
2. Mike Kelley, John Glenn Memorial Detroit River Reclamation Project (Including the Local Culture Pictorial Guide, 1968-1972, Wayne/Westland Eagle), 2001. Photo: Fredrik Nilsen; Rennie Collection. © Estate of Mike Kelley. Courtesy HangarBicocca