Mike Kelley - Contemporary Art Day Sale New York Friday, May 15, 2015 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Metro Pictures, New York

  • Exhibited

    New York, Metro Pictures, toward a utopian arts complex, October 21 - November 26, 1995
    Washington D.C., Hirschhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Distemper: Dissonant Themes in the Arts of the 1990s, June 20 - September 15, 1996
    Barcelona, Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona, MIKE KELLEY 1985-1996, January 24 - March 31, 1997, then traveled to Malmö, Rooseum Center for Contemporary Art (April 25 - June 15, 1997), Eindhoven, Stedelijk Van Abbemuseum (July 5 - August 31, 1997)
    Brussels, WIELS Center d'Art Contemporain, Mike Kelley: Educational Complex Onwards 1995-2008, April 12 - July 27, 2008, then traveled to Bolzano, Museion (January 17 - April 19, 2009)

  • Literature

    MIKE KELLEY 1985-1996, exh. cat., Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona, 1996, p. 113, cat. no. 32 (illustrated)
    J. Welchman, “Mike Kelley écrits / Mike Kelley’s Writings,” Artpress, (June 2013), p.49 (illustrated on cover)
    M.Kelley, “L’immonde idéal: réflections sur la caricature” Artpress, (June 2013), p.54 (illustrated and illustrated on cover)

  • Catalogue Essay

    Mike Kelley’s oeuvre is punctuated by a critical investigation of the darker side of youth and the process of “growing up.” His career long examination of adolescent repression and the psychoanalytic reconsideration of childhood memories has produced a body of work that is both enlightening and deeply troubling. Interested in the communication of fractured and fabricated narratives, much of Kelley’s assumed biography and childhood trauma is in fact invented by the artist and assumes a sort of universality for the very history upon which he is commenting – the Middle American suburban ideal.

    Prenatal Mutual Recognition of Betty and Barney Hill, 1995 is from a series entitled Timeless Paintings which were originally exhibited in the artist’s seminal show at Metro Pictures in New York, 1995. Comprised of these paintings exhibited around architectural models of every school the artist attended, the show was an exercise in psychoanalytic determination. The present work depicts two young children, mouths agape in a sexually suggestive fashion, on an irregularly shaped canvas. Aside from their two faces, the composition is largely abstract with two large Hoffmann-esque blocks of color obscuring whatever other narrative component may be included beneath. An allusion to the sort of painting he was taught in art school, the panels serve to illustrate the artist’s belief that abstract art itself is repressive in the sense that it distorts and obscures narrative structure. Intriguing and mesmerizing, Prenatal Mutual Recognition of Betty and Barney Hill is rife with analytical allusion and playful artistry.

    Adult reinterpretations of childhood and childhood memories have become an important subject for many of this generation's most influential contemporary artists. Ranging from Jeff Koons's playful Popples, 1988, to Urs Fischer's monumental sculpture Untitled (Lamp/Bear), 2005-2006, artists have appropriated images taken from childhood as a way of drawing the viewer into the work. Kelley’s fixation on the subject has made works like Prenatal Mutual Recognition of Betty and Barney Hill among the most polarizing and lauded objects to tackle this delicate subject matter.


Prenatal Mutual Recognition of Betty and Barney Hill

acrylic and wood panel on wood panel
64 1/8 x 46 7/8 in. (163 x 119 cm)
Signed and dated "M. Kelley 1995" on the reverse.

$200,000 - 300,000 

Sold for $317,000

Contact Specialist
Kate Bryan
Head of Day Sale
New York
+ 1 212 940 1267

Contemporary Art Day Sale

New York Day Sale 15 May 2015 11am