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Mike Kelley’s Work In Dialogue With Artists Curated By Jay Ezra Nayssan At Hauser & Wirth DTLA

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Mike Kelley was a much beloved California artist who explored issues of memory and architectural space before his untimely death in 2012 by suicide, at age 57. Particularly in the latter part of his career, Kelley created works that explored his memory of specific places he had encountered as well as creating imagined fantastical cityscapes and landscapes. “Nonmemory” is an expression Kelley used to negotiate the relationships between place, memory, and identity.

Jay Ezra Nayssan is a very thoughtful curator, writer and the founder of Del Vaz Projects, an arts nonprofit, who I first met during Frieze LA when he staged an event at the Thomas Mann House and then a show in his own home in Santa Monica (the former one-time childhood home of Shirley Temple).

Nayssan, in cooperation with the Mike Kelley Foundation, has brought together works by Kelley as well as seven other contemporary artists whose works engage with the locus of memory: Kelly Akashi, Meriem Bennani, Beatriz Cortez, Raúl de Nieves, Olivia Erlanger, Lauren Halsey and Max Hooper Schneider. For this exhibition, Nayssan began reading Mike Kelley’s texts until, he said at the press preview, “he could hear Mike’s voice.”

Like the other current shows at Hauser & Wirth DTLA from Stefan Brüggemann and Harmony Korine, the beauty and the intelligence of this show won’t be apparent from a cursory walkthrough. It very much deepens the experience to understand what you are looking at – and to know the intentions of the artists and curator involved.

On exhibit are works by Kelley that map out one of his former schools; distinguishing among what he does and doesn’t remember about the layout and buildings; as well as a sculpture that features his “city on a hill,” an imagined city perhaps on Superman’s native Krypton.

The artists whose works Nayssan has selected interact with Kelley’s work in spirit. So, for example, Moroccan-born Brooklyn-based artist Meriem Bennani created an installation that invites one to view video that is a combination of documentary and animation. The video explores the legacy of Morrocco’s past as a French colony, and the way in which her own education at a French Lycée in Morrocco affected her and the identities of students there.

Olivia Elander’s work resonates with Kelley’s as it juxtaposes shapes, forms, and objects in ways that, in the words of the press release, “investigate the mythology behind American social mobility and its fraught relationship to gender and class.”

Nayssan has chosen the work of Raúl de Nieves and Max Hooper Schneider to highlight another aspect of Kelley’s artistic practice, the use of found objects that as Nayssan put it make “the familiar… de-familiar.” De Nieves incorporates everyday found items in a process of “accumulation and adornment” that makes the ordinary into the unimaginable. In this exhibition, De Nieves uses in his map-like work that chart his migration from Michoacán, Mexico to the United States.

Hooper Schneider takes this approach even further with works that are constantly in flux, as the objects he gathers into shapes and forms degrade over time. As the amalgams take on a shape of their own. they look like cousins to Mike Kelley’s Memory Ware Flat #16, exhibited in the show.

Los Angeles based artists Kelly Akashi and Beatriz Cortez both create sculptural works from geologic forms in ways that speak Kelley’s use of rocks and boulders as plinths and artworks in of themselves.

Finally, Nayssan chose a work by Lauren Halsey that is part of her efforts “to archive and preserve the unique, hybrid culture of South-Central LA into the future,” to be in dialogue with Kelley’s “Mobile Homestead.” These works are meant to engage one in thinking about public art and, as the press release states, to underscore “the complexities of navigating between institutional and non-institutional space.”

In conjunction with the exhibition, Del Vaz Projects and Hauser & Wirth Publishers have co-published a book on the exhibition with text by Nayssan and reproductions of works in the show as well as important works by Kelley and his original essay on “Architectural Non-memory Replaced with Psychic Reality.” There is also a full complement of public programming including a panel discussion among artists featured in the exhibition, as well as performances (for more information see hauserwirth.com/events).

Like much of Kelley’s work, Nonmemory is a journey from the remembered, the found, the junk, the everyday, to the assembled, the created, the fabricated that asks us to consider What is Art and of what is it made.



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