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    "For me, psychedelia was sublime because in psychedelia, your worldview fell apart. That was a sublime revelation…my notion of beauty. And that was a kind
    of cataclysmic sublime. It was very interiorized,
    it wasn’t about a metaphysical outside;
    it was about your own consciousness."
    —Mike Kelley

     

    Presenting a dazzling cacophony of countless, accumulated charms and trinkets, Mike Kelley’s Memory Ware Flat #3 is a stunning early iteration of his renowned eponymous series spanning between 2000 and 2010. Executed in the year of the series’ inception, the work encapsulates the artist’s investigations on memory, remembrance, and reconstruction that informed the latter half of his career. Seen from afar, the composition presents a kaleidoscopic field of hypnotizing color; examined up close, it presents a trove of wildly diverse ephemera densely packed together, ranging from seemingly latent mementos to futile bric-a-brac. In this materially and conceptually loaded phantasmagoria, Kelley coalesces high and low, irreverent with academic, achieving an artistic synthesis that is as deeply thought-provoking as visually alluring.

     

     

    Jackson Pollock, Shimmering Substance, 1946. Museum of Modern Art, New York, Image: © The Museum of Modern Art/Licensed by SCALA / Art Resource, NY, Artwork: © 2021 Pollock-Krasner Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

    Jackson Pollock, Shimmering Substance, 1946. Museum of Modern Art, New York, Image: © The Museum of Modern Art/Licensed by SCALA / Art Resource, NY, Artwork: © 2021 Pollock-Krasner Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

     

    "In art school I was trained in the modernist tradition,
    yet I felt compelled to return again and again to materials associated with my lower-middle-class upbringing, to re-examine those materials from a critical vantage point…I was using these traditional materials in an intentionally perverse way—misusing them to reveal their conventionality."
    —Mike Kelley

     

    Kelley named the series after a form of North American folk art involving the decoration of common household items with sentimental objects such as jewelry, beads, and buttons—a genre he first discovered at a Toronto antiques fair in 2000. Offering a new form of expression to his longstanding engagement with repurposing materials and interest in the low brow, the inspiration Kelley found in this realm of craft filtered through his own artistic sensibility. “The materials used to decorate objects in the memory ware tradition are often keepsakes, things saved for sentimental reasons that prompt fond memories. My works are not loaded with similar sentiments, of course, as I am more interested in the themes of reexamination and reuse than in the production of nostalgia.”i

     

     

    [left] Robert Rauschenberg, Reservoir, 1961. Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C., Image: Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC / Art Resource, NY, Artwork: © 2021 Robert Rauschenberg Foundation [right] Jean Dubuffet, Soil Ornamented with Vegetation, Dead Leaves, Pebbles, Diverse Debris, 1956. Museum of Modern Art, New York, Image: © The Museum of Modern Art/Licensed by SCALA / Art Resource, NY, Artwork: © 2021 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

    [left] Robert Rauschenberg, Reservoir, 1961. Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C., Image: Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC / Art Resource, NY, Artwork: © 2021 Robert Rauschenberg Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, [right] Jean Dubuffet, Soil Ornamented with Vegetation, Dead Leaves, Pebbles, Diverse Debris, 1956. Museum of Modern Art, New York, Image: © The Museum of Modern Art/Licensed by SCALA / Art Resource, NY, Artwork: © 2021 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

     

     

    The Memory Ware Flats, with their brilliantly chromatic and teeming surfaces contained within wood frames, represent an arresting hybrid between the aesthetic of painting and sculptural assemblage. Here, Kelley evokes a striking fusion of Jackson Pollock’s allover style, Marcel Duchamp’s readymades, and Jean Dubuffet’s painted collage canvases, showcasing a sumptuous presentation of his singular painterly language. As he described of the series, “Some paintings are completely covered with similarly sized buttons that, because of their uniformity, produce an intense optical effect when arranged in a field. Others are made up of a wider variety of decorative materials in a more garish ‘wild style’ approach, while still others are composed of strings of brightly colored beads and have swirling psychedelic surfaces. All of the paintings, however, share a noncompositional, ‘overall’ approach to their dispersion of materials.”ii

     

     

    Mike Kelley, More Love Hours Than Can Ever Be Repaid, 1987. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, Artwork: © The Mike Kelley Foundation for the Arts / Licensed by VAGA at Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

    Mike Kelley, More Love Hours Than Can Ever Be Repaid, 1987. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, Image: © Whitney Museum of American Art / Licensed by Scala / Art Resource, NY, Artwork: © The Mike Kelley Foundation for the Arts / Licensed by VAGA at Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

     

    "Yet the borrowed aesthetics deployed by the artist must not be taken at face value; instead, they represent elements in an associative labyrinth, discussion points within an intricately spiraling web of linked ideas and allusions...The determining factor is not the formal vocabulary but the conceptual framing and contextualization."
    —Ralph Rugoff

     

    Underneath the eye-popping and shimmering surface of Memory Ware Flat #3 lies a deeper conceptual discourse on both the course of objecthood and the human condition. Kelley’s and reuse and reconception of materials reflect how framing them in a new context can breathe new life into our perceptions of ideas and objects over time. As he explained, “I playfully give new ‘life’ to unused studio materials and discarded formal and thematic considerations in a manner similar to memory ware’s revitalization of cast-off objects.”iii The work therefore ultimately draws viewers to consider a psychological reading of memory and visuality, alerting us to the inevitable development of art and popular culture as percolating appropriations or reactions to ideas over time. In this way, Kelley’s Memory Wares transcend fixed boundaries of identification that straddle micro to macro, abstraction and representation. “I am not solely interested in arresting visuals; I am more interested in questioning the conventions of reading within a given genre,” he expressed.iv “I really think art’s about representation. And I don’t believe in nonobjective art; I don’t think there’s such a thing.”v

     

     

     

     

     

    i Mike Kelley, “Memory Ware,” in John C. Welchman, ed., Minor Histories: Statements, Conversations, Proposals, Cambridge, 2004, p. 153.
    ii Ibid.
    iii Ibid., p. 152.
    iv Mike Kelley, quoted in “Interview: Isabelle McGraw in Conversation with Mike Kelley,” in John C. Welchman, Mike Kelley, London, 1999, p. 14.
    v Mike Kelley, quoted in “Language and Psychology: Mike Kelley,” Art21, September 2005 (repr. November 2011), online.

    • Provenance

      Galerie Ghislaine Hussenot, Paris
      Private Collection
      Phillips de Pury & Company, New York, November 16, 2006, lot 21
      Private Collection
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      Paris, Galerie Ghislaine Hussenot, Mike Kelley: Memory Ware, October 26 – December 24, 2000
      New York, Skarstedt Gallery, Mike Kelley: Memory Ware Flats, September 13 – October 20, 2012

    • Literature

      Mike Kelley: Memory Ware, exh. cat., Jablonka Galerie, Essen, 2002, p. 74 (illustrated, p. 10)
      Mike Kelley: Memory Ware, A Survey, exh. cat., Hauser & Wirth, New York, 2017, p. 245 (illustrated, p. 58)

38

Memory Ware Flat #3

signed and dated “M. Kelley 2000” on the reverse
mixed media on wood panel
object 70 1/4 x 46 1/4 x 4 1/2 in. (178.4 x 117.5 x 11.4 cm)
framed 76 x 52 1/2 x 4 1/2 in. (193 x 133.4 x 11.4 cm)

Executed in 2000.

Full Cataloguing

Estimate
$1,000,000 - 1,500,000 

Sold for $1,179,500

Contact Specialist

Amanda Lo Iacono
New York Head of Department & Head of Auctions
+1 212 940 1278
[email protected]

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Auction 17 November 2021