Mike Kelley, the Michigan born, artist whose Detroit based band, Destroy All Monsters, predated the punk rock scene, has committed suicide. Kelley was discovered dead on Tuesday at his home in South Pasadena, Calif. According to reports, He was suffering from severe depression. Kelley’s art work has been widely exhibited in many of the world’s most prestigious galleries and in public collections, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Whitney in New York, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago and commercially at the Gagosian Gallery.
Born in Detroit, Michigan in 1954, he lived and worked in Los Angeles. Kelley studied at the California Institute of the Arts and the University of Michigan. Major solo exhibitions include “Catholic Tastes,” Whitney Museum of American Art, New York and Los Angeles County Museum of Art (1993); “Mike Kelley,” Museu d’art Contemporani, Barcelona (1997); “Framed and Framed, Test Room, Sublevel,” MAGASIN, Grenoble (1999); “The Uncanny,” Tate Liverpool and Museum Moderne Kunst Stiftung Ludwig, Vienna (2004); “Profondeurs Vertes,” Musée du Louvre (2006) As a University of Michigan student, Kelley gained underground notoriety as a founding member of Destroy All Monsters, an art collective and band that formed in 1973. Two of his group mates — Niagara and Jim Shaw.The group’s droning noise-rock later proved influential on groups such as Sonic Youth
“Mike was an irresistible force in contemporary art,” his studio wrote in a statement released Wednesday to the Los Angeles Times. “We cannot believe he is gone. But we know his legacy will continue to touch and challenge anyone who crosses its path. We will miss him. We will keep him with us.” His installation “Carnival Time” is in the permanent collection at the Detroit Institute of Arts.
It was reported that Kelley had been depressed in recent months following a breakup with his partner, according to multiple sources. He had to be bribed by friends to attend the Nov. 19 opening of a Los Angeles exhibit spotlighting his former band, Destroy All Monsters, said Rick Manore, a longtime associate.
Kelley, who worked in a variety of visual mediums, was regarded as a renegade artist with a confrontational streak. His work often involved large installations, including 2010’s “Mobile Homestead,” a nearly life-size re-creation of his boyhood home that debuted at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit and was wheeled through the original Westland neighbourhood.
In a statement accompanying the exhibit, Kelley wrote that the piece “covertly makes a distinction between public art and private art, between the notions that art functions for the social good, and that art addresses personal desires and concerns.” “He marched to the beat of a different — I don’t even know if it was a drummer,” said Manore, cofounder of Detroit’s late CPOP Gallery. “He wasn’t about pretty pictures. He was about pushing you out of your comfort zone.”
His work is scheduled for display at the prestigious 2012 Whitney Biennial in New York.