Mike Kelley, one of the most important international artists of our time was found dead Tuesday morning in his Pasadena home of an apparent suicide. This marked the second suicide of a prominent cultural figure of this week; Don Cornelius was lost on the same day, by a similar fate.

Kelley’s artistic process involved a wide range of media including found objects, textile banners, drawings, assemblage, collage, performance and video. His work was psychologically complex and was instrumental in turning Los Angeles into a center and international capital of contemporary art. The core of his creations took inspiration from various topics and issues derived from history, philosophy, politics, underground music, decorative arts and working-class artistic expression. The work usually examined issues concerning class, gender, normality, criminality and perversion; there was always, more often than not, a social commentary that was embedded within the work.

The contemporary art community has lost one of their more influential contributors.


“He is one of the leading and most influential artists,” said Helene Winer, partner in New York’s Metro Pictures gallery, where Kelley had his first New York solo exhibition in 1982 and showed over the next two decades. Kelley, she added, “broke down the distinctions between different forms of art. He was very intense, had a lot of energy, was extremely serious and very productive.”

LA Times: Culture Monster: Mike Kelley: A game-changer for the art world

Los Angeles Times slideshow

The New York Times: Mike Kelley, an Artist With Attitude, Dies at 57