Mike Kelley was found dead in his home yesterday of an apparent suicide, news which I find heart breaking.
As an undergrad Mike Kelley was my entree into contemporary art, the place where I felt like I understood things and knew where I would potentially fit in. As a rabid Sonic Youth fan I had some awareness in high school that some of their album covers were designed by well-known artists, however, at that point the only one I had a passing familiarity with was Raymond Pettibon. Once I got to art school and connected Dirty with Kelley everything started to make sense.
I had the opportunity to see him speak at the MOMA in the early 2000s which was one of the highlights of my early development. Incidentally it was the same day that OMF passed out mouth agape, seated directly in front of James Turrell.... Through Kelley I learned that art could be smart, clever, dirty, and funny, free of mimesis, and some of the typical tropes I was familiar with up until that point. His aesthetic sensibility has informed my decision making to this day. Without his work I wouldn't have so easily made the connection between music and contemporary art nor would I have freed myself to develop relationships with many of the materials I have chosen to use in my career.
This is a sad day. Kelley passed at the age of 58, wiping out countless years of productivity. RIP