Thursday, February 9, 2012

Look Up: (#4)

We've all looked up to this South Pas landmark. But what many people don't know is that beneath this water tower, in a funky little house, lived one of the most influential contemporary artists of the 20th Century.

Many of us looked up to Mike Kelley, whose quiet, domestic years as a South Pasadena resident offered a sharp contrast to the messy complexity and downright punk aesthetic of his work. Most of us had no idea such a radical art legend lived in that little house under the water tower. I shot many pictures of the house, never knowing who the owner might be. (Not even with clues like this one.)

Los Angeles Times art critic Christopher Knight once described Kelley as “an avatar of the power and humanity inherent in recognizing the radical impurity of human experience. His art searches out dark and soiled places where defects, fault lines and inadequacies are obvious and routine, and where failure takes on the poignant, fragile, even heartbreaking beauty that accompanies any loss of self.”

Mike Kelley passed away last week at the age of 57. 57 years old is too damn young for anyone to leave this world -- especially someone as rambunctious, groundbreaking, complex and passionate as Mike Kelley.

As I look upward now, I wish him luck, love and wild inspiration on his next adventure. If the spirit world is in need of a good shaking up, Mike Kelley is just the right rebel angel for the job.


UPDATE: Please check out Pasadena Adjacent's moving post about Mike Kelley. Be sure to click on the videos -- including the one in the comments section.

This week is Look Up Week -- a chance to look at things above us.

12 comments:

hugO Nelson Chavez said...

... great post! Love the hidden art and artist's history beneath this landmark. Much too young indeed ...

Mister Earl said...

Great post!

Judy Williams said...

What a beautiful tribute.

Dixie Jane said...

This is lovely, Laurie.

Kaori said...

Beautiful way to pay tribute to such an interesting man.

JF said...

What a small world. I always loved the pink Christmas tree against the proud green house, so contemporary but unusual and stunning. The other day on my Blip feed (like twitter, but a feed of songs, not just comments) the drummer for Sonic Youth posted that he had passed, until then, I didn't know about him or that he lived in South Pasadena.

San Diego Farmgirl said...

I think Aunt Pat has already hired Kelley to redecorate her new place. =)

Green Guy said...

Wow. I had no idea. I always loved his work, too.

Great tribute, LA.

Pasadena Adjacent said...

It's been hard to look up this week for those of who are members of this small community. News of Mike's death traveled shot gun fast. At first I thought it might be a joke because earlier, an article was written (in jest) with similar headlines declaring the death of Damian Hirst.

come visit - our timing is simpatico

Laurie said...

Everyone be sure to check out Pasadena Adjacent's post. I linked to it in mine.

Trish said...

It is always hard for those of us left behind to understand.

Artists are a special breed and to get to the place to be iconic in your craft, you have to touch places that most people never even dream about.

May Mike's memory always be for a blessing and may we all be touched and let him live on in our own spirits.

Judy Williams said...

Farmgirl - I think you're right. Warhol is probably involved somewhere in the mix as well. ;)