The MIT Press, Massachusetts

Foul Perfection : Essays and Criticism
by Mike Kelley

The work of artist Mike Kelley (b. 1954) embraces performance, installation, drawing, painting, video, and sculpture. Drawing distinctively on high art and vernacular traditions, including historical research, popular culture, and psychology, Kelley came to prominence in the 1980s with a series of sculptures composed of craft materials. His recent work offers dialogues with architecture and with repressed memory syndrome, and a sustained inquiry into his own aesthetic and social history. The subjects on which Kelley has written are as varied as his artistic media. They include the work of fellow artists, sound, caricature, the uncanny, UFOlogy, and gender-bending.

This book offers a diverse collection of Kelley’s writings from the last twenty-five years. It contains major critical texts on art, film, and the wider culture, including his piece on the aesthetic he calls “urban Gothic.” It also contains essays, mostly commissioned for exhibition catalogs and journals, on the artists and groups David Askevold, Öyvind Fahlström, Douglas Huebler, John Miller, Survival Research Laboratories, and Paul Thek, among others. Kelley’s voices are passionate, analytic, and ironic, and his critical intelligence is leavened with touches of whimsy.

Reviews
“This collection proves that [Kelley] has not only helped write history but has had an effect on it.” — Diedrich Diederichsen, Artforum

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Mike Kelley
Educational Complex (Afterall Books: One Work)


One of the most influential artists of our time, Mike Kelley (1954–2012) produced a body of innovative work mining American popular culture as well as modernist and postmodernist art—relentless examinations of subjectivity and of society that are both sinister and ecstatic. With a wide range of media, Kelley’s work explores themes as varied as post-punk politics, religious systems, social class, and repressed memory. Using architectural models to represent schools he attended, his 1995 work,Educational Complex, presents forgotten spaces as frames for private trauma, real or imagined. The work’s implications are at once miniature and massive. In this book, John Miller offers an illustrated examination of this milestone work that marked a significant change in Kelley’s practice.

A “complex” can mean an architectural configuration, a psychological syndrome, or a political apparatus, and Miller approaches Educational Complex through corresponding lines of inquiry, considering the making of the work, examining it in terms of education and trauma (sexual or otherwise), and investigating how it tests the ideological horizon of art as an institution. Miller shows that in Educational Complex, Kelley expands his political and aesthetic focus, including not only such artifacts as generic forms of architecture but (inspired by the infamous McMartin Preschool case) popular fantasies associated with ritual sex abuse and false memory syndrome. Through this archaeology of the contemporary, Miller argues, Kelley examines the mandate for education and the liberal democratic premises underpinning it.

Author John Miller, Professor of Professional Practice in the Department of Art History at Barnard College, is an artist and critic whose work has been exhibited internationally. He was Mike Kelley’s friend and colleague from 1978 until Kelley’s death in 2012.

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Displaying the Marvelous
Marcel Duchamp, Salvador Dali, and Surrealist Exhibition Installations

Surrealism in its late phase often abandoned neutral exhibition spaces in favor of environments that embodied subjective ideologies. These exhibitions offered startled viewers an early version of installation art before the form existed as such. In Displaying the Marvelous, Lewis Kachur explores this development by analyzing three elaborate Surrealist installations created between 1938 and 1942. The first two, the “Exposition Internationale du Surrealisme” (1938) and the “Dream of Venus” at the New York World’s Fair (1939), dealt with the fetishization of the female body. The third, “First Papers of Surrealism” (1942), focused not on the figure but on the entire expanse of the exhibition space, thus contributing to the development of nonfigurative art in New York. Kachur presents a full visual and verbal reconstruction of each of the exhibitions, evoking the sequence that the contemporary viewer would have encountered.

The book considers Marcel Duchamp and Salvador Dali, two artists who are not usually compared, within a common framework. Duchamp specialized in frustrating the spectator, using his ironic wit to call into question the definition of the work of art. Dali was a master at disorienting the senses by establishing and then undermining everyday spatial and object properties. The Surrealist challenge, as voiced by Andre Breton, was to evoke the marvelous. Duchamp and Dali extended that challenge to the physical and commercial realm of the exhibition installation.

About the Author
Lewis Kachur is Associate Professor of Art History at Kean University, New Jersey.

“Lewis Kachur hands us a free time-travel ticket, with himself as marvelous pilot. Transporting us into the thick inventions of late Surrealist exhibitions, he gives us the ravishing gift of being there, present at the birthing and, as well, the seeding of so much installation and site-specific art to come decades later. For artists now who feel tied to Grandfather Marcel without having known him, Kachur’s work vividly opens up the real moves of Duchamp’s reinvention of what it is to be an artist. Revealing secret interior paths of communication among artists that flow synaptically across generations, this sumptuous work points to a new holistic way to understand art.”
—Mierle Laderman Ukeles, artist

“A splendid analysis of the late Surrealist exhibitions. Anyone interested in Surrealist art would want this book; anyone interested in the consideration of display in twentieth-century art must have this book.”
—Richard Martin (1945-1999), former curator, Metropolitan Museum of Art

“Perceptive, fascinating, and written with pleasure and delight. The reciprocal exchange between art work and its context is presented with a steady, at times inspired, sense of inquiry.”
—Brian O’Doherty, writer

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The Exiles of Marcel Duchamp
by T.J. Demos


Marcel Duchamp was a famous expatriate, a wanderer, living and working in Paris, New York, and Buenos Aires and escaping from each in turn. But exile, argues T. J. Demos in this innovative reading, is more than a fact in Duchamp’s biography. Exile–in the artist’s own words, a “spirit of expatriation”–infuses Duchamp’s entire artistic practice. Duchamp’s readymade constructions, his installations for surrealist exhibitions in Paris and New York, and his “portable museum” (the suggestively named La boite-en-valise), Demos writes, all manifest, define, and exploit the terms of exile in multiple ways. Created while the artist was living variously in New York, Buenos Aires, and occupied France during the global catastrophes of war and fascism, these works express the anguish of displacement and celebrate the freedom of geopolitical homelessness. The “portable museum,” a suitcase containing miniature reproductions of Duchamp’s works, for example, represented a complex meditation–both critical and joyful–on modern art’s tendency toward itinerancy, whereas Duchamp’s 1942 installation design entangling a New York gallery in a mile of string announced the dislocated status that many exiled surrealists wished to forget. Duchamp’s exile, writes Demos, defines a new ethics of independent life in the modern age of nationalism and advanced capitalism, offering a precursor to our own globalized world of nomadic subjects and dispersed experience.

T. J. Demos is a Lecturer in the Department of History of Art, University College London and the author of The Exiles of Marcel Duchamp (MIT Press, 2007). His essays have appeared in such journals as Artforum, Grey Room, October, and Texte zur Kunst.

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