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Photos: Pop Culture Meets Punk Rebellion In Mike Kelley's Largest-Ever Exhibition At MOCA

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Mike Kelley's contemporary artwork is some of the most influential in our generation, even crossing over to music and spawning collaborations with bands like Sonic Youth. (Remember the knitted doll adorning the cover of the band's 1992 Dirty album? That was Kelley.) The late and internationally-renowned artist embodied much of the punk rock spirit and Los Angeles culture. And his iconic artwork is coming back home with a retrospective (the largest exhibition of his work to date with over 200 pieces) launching March 31 at MOCA.

The Detroit-born artist, who committed suicide in 2012 in his South Pasadena home at the age of 57, was known for his mixed-media installations. His art was oftentimes dark, scrutinizing the chaos of American life but with also a pop sensibility and touching upon the classics.

Some of the work he's known for includes his monstrous yet adorable dolls, a painting of Santa Claus defecating and waving, and a life-size mannequin of KFC's Colonel Sanders unveiling a tiny figure of Sigmund Freud.

He used different mediums—everything including drawings, video, music, photography, stuffed animals and painting. And he also covered everything from repressed memories to gender issues.

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The Cal Arts grad lived in Los Angeles from the mid-1970s onward, according to the N.Y. Times. Glenn O'Brien of Interview wrote of Kelley:

Mike Kelley is a Los Angeles artist. You'd imagine that he could make his work anywhere, and it resonates wherever it's shown, but Kelley seems to thrive on and celebrate the sprawl and ordered chaos of that last-chance city.

This exhibit, which MOCA said in a statement is the "first comprehensive survey since 1993," will cover his works spanning over his 35-year career.

Kelley has said of his career, according to a press release from MOCA:

“My entrance into the art world was through the counter-culture, where it was common practice to lift material from mass culture and ‘pervert‘ it to reverse or alter its meaning … Mass culture is scrutinized to discover what is hidden, repressed, within it.”
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The Mike Kelley exhibit will run from March 31 to July 28, 2014 at the The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA. More info can be found here.