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Mike Kelley RIP

The artist Mike Kelley has died at the age of 57. Early reports suggest he committed suicide. Though best known as an influential artist whose work was exhibited at numerous galleries and museums worldwide, Kelley was also an enthusiastic sound maker and label owner.

During the 1970s in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Kelley founded the influential Noise outfit Destroy All Monsters with Jim Shaw, Niagra and Carey Loren. Later, after moving to Los Angeles (which would remain his home base), and gaining a reputation with his performance art and installations, Kelley started his own label, Compound Annex. On it, he released recordings by DAM and fellow cohorts, as well as his collaborations with artists like Scanner, Jean Baudrillard and Tony Oursler. One of Kelley's artworks, Ahh… Youth, was used as the cover of Sonic Youth's 1992 album, Dirty. Kelley also regularly performed live in LA with members of The Los Angeles Free Music Society.

Kelley’s art made use of performance, painting, sculpture, sound and stuffed toys, taking ideas from an array of sources, including Americana, the 'Orgone energy' theories of Wilhelm Reich, repressed memory syndrome and alien abduction, to name a few. Kelley was also a prolific writer, with two collections of his essays, Foul Perfection and Minor Histories, both published by MIT Press.

In later years, his art grew from the scrappy and eclectic sculptures of the late 70s, heavily influenced by the DIY aesthetics of his Michigan years, to more grandiose, multi-part productions, with large scale budgets, such as 2005's Day Is Done which comprised of a feature length, 32 part film recreating the contents of an American High School Yearbook.