MIKE KELLEY: ARENAS essay by Cary Levine
Skarstedt Gallery, 2011 First edition, 44 pp., 8 3/4 X 11 3/4" Hardcover
Published on the occasion of the exhibition Mike Kelley: Arenas, this catalogue features full plate images, installation views, and an essay by art historian Cary Levine titled “Pandora’s Blanket: Mike Kelley’s Arenas in Cultural Context.”
This exhibition included seven of the eleven works from this series, all of which were originally shown at Metro Pictures Gallery in 1990. Prior to creating the Arenas, stuffed animals played an integral role in Kelley’s oeuvre. He sought to explore the commodification of gifted craft objects and the question of how one repays the “gift”. In an interview with John Miller from 1992, Kelley states, “Basically, gift giving is like indentured slavery or something. There’s no price, so you don’t know how much you owe. The commodity is emotion. What’s being bought and sold is emotion.” Kelley takes the emotion one step further with this series by stripping the nostalgia of these childhood toys and confronting the “real emotion” and making people look at these toys as objects in the present tense. They are man-made, and project the intent of the maker, not the child who owned the object.