Mike Kelley

Mike Kelley

The late Mike Kelley‘s “Kandors 1999-2011” at Hauser & Wirth is literally and figuratively tenebrous. Deviating from Kelley’s typical folksiness, this show exudes a clinical coolness. “Kandors” was his final major series. It centers on the fictional metropolis Kandor, an outgrowth of the Superman comic series invented in 1933. In a 2010 essay outlining this body of work’s complicated back-story, Kelley declares the mythological miniature city as a metaphor for alienation. “Kandors” originated as part of a 1999 German museum show for which the artist’s elaborate plans were thwarted by lack of museum funding—a failure appearing symbolically suited to the work’s overall ethos of impracticality. This exhibition begins with a re-creation of Kelley’s original installation, Kandor-Con 2000 (1999/2007), a Comic-Con parody with a sign reading “Future Site of Kandor, Projected Completion Date January 419500 A.D.,” where workers create paper skyscraper sculptures at nearby desks. In subsequent galleries, darkness sets off lenticular lightboxes and huge dazzling jewel-toned sculptures of imaginary art deco metropolises inside bell jars lit from within. Sylvia Plath allusions apparently reflect Kelley’s own descent into disconsolation. Further into the show, gloom deepens, reaching a piercing crescendo in Odalisque (2010), Kandor 19B (2010, above left) and War Memorial (2011, above right).  Spectacle renders this survey as striking as a surcharged museum exhibit. It concludes with Kandor 10B (Exploded Fortress of Solitude) (2011), a sprawling cavern embedded with glittering gold that tragically didn’t inspirit its creator at rainbow’s end.

 

Hauser & Wirth Los Angeles
901 E. 3rd Street
Los Angeles, CA 90013
Show runs through Jan. 21