Curated by Jay Ezra Nayssan, ‘Nonmemory’ brings together seminal works by Mike Kelley and a group of seven contemporary artists – Kelly Akashi, Meriem Bennani, Beatriz Cortez, Raúl de Nieves, Olivia Erlanger, Lauren Halsey and Max Hooper Schneider – whose works all play with the role of memory as it posits our perceptions of space and place.
Through a variety of media and material, the artists in this exhibition use space as the repository for dreams, fantasies, traumas and anxieties, while offering opportunities to re-imagine and recreate reality. The title of the exhibition ‘Nonmemory,’ takes direct inspiration from Kelley’s use of the term, a way of treating, reordering and representing the complex and unstable relationship between memory, space and identity.
Alongside a number of Mike Kelley works related to ‘Educational Complex,’ Meriem Bennani and Olivia Erlanger’s pieces continue Kelley’s assessment of institutional and domestic space on identity formation, highlighting how the subject not only develops in, but is developed through space. Through her particular use of documentary and animation, Moroccan–born artist Meriem Bennani’s work in the exhibition deals with the legacy of colonialism in Morocco and its effects on the identities of students educated in the French lycée system, herself included. Culling from a range of suburban visual lexicon and architectural vernacular, Olivia Erlanger’s pieces investigate the mythology behind American social mobility and its fraught relationship to gender and class.
Artists Raúl de Nieves and Max Hooper Schneider both amass large amounts of personal and found objects in their works, which are reminiscent of Kelley’s lavish collection of keepsakes that saturate his Memory Ware Flats series. De Nieves is a Mexican-born artist whose ‘psycho-topographical’ pieces cull from memories of his migration from Michoacán to the United States. Deploying sublimity, nostalgia and tropes of the natural to different ends, Hooper Schneider’s excessive accumulation and subsequent degradation of everyday objects renders conventional forms and habitats strange, unfamiliar and constantly in flux.
Similar to Mike Kelley’s Kandors, Kelly Akashi and Beatriz Cortez engage with natural and counter architectural forms as a way of challenging our perceptions of space and time. El Salvador–born, Los Angeles–based artist Beatriz Cortez’s multimedia amalgamations of distant pasts and futures create new historical and spiritual multiplicities in the present. Kelly Akashi, also Los Angeles based, uses the lens of geology as a psychological metaphor for expansive time and space.
Los Angeles–based artist Lauren Halsey’s architectural prototypes work to archive and preserve the unique, hybrid culture of South-Central LA into the future. Placed in dialogue with each other, Mike Kelley’s ‘Mobile Homestead’ and Lauren Halsey’s piece expand on the evolution of social practice and public art over the last several decades, underscoring the complexities of navigating between institutional and non-institutional space.
This new retrospective devoted to one of America’s most influential artists of the late twentieth-early twenty-first centuries offers a new perspective on this major corpus that has always resisted ready categorisation, by featuring some of his most important works, some of which belong to the Pinault Collection.
The Mike Kelley Foundation for the Arts advances the artist’s spirit of critical thinking, risk taking, and provocation in the arts. Established by Kelley in 2007, the Foundation seeks to further Kelley’s philanthropic work through grants to arts organizations and artists for innovative projects that reflect his multifaceted artistic practice. The Foundation also preserves the artist’s legacy more broadly and fosters the understanding of his life and creative achievements through educational initiatives including exhibitions, educational events, publications and the preservation and care of the Foundation’s art collections and archives.
Jay Ezra Nayssan is a curator, writer, and the founder of Del Vaz Projects, an arts nonprofit based in Los Angeles, California. Beginning in 2014 as an alternative exhibition space located in Nayssan’s home, Del Vaz Projects has expanded over the last decade into a curatorial platform, independent press, and artist production fund. In addition to the programming at Del Vaz Projects, Nayssan has organized exhibitions and programming for galleries and institutions, including this year’s inaugural series of off-site projects at Frieze Los Angeles.
Mike Kelley is widely considered one of the most influential artists of our time. Originally from a suburb outside of Detroit, Kelley attended the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, before moving to Southern California in 1976 to study at California Institute of the Arts from which he received an MFA in 1978. The city of Los Angeles became his adopted home and the site of his prolific art practice. In much of his work, Kelley drew from a wide spectrum of high and low culture, and was known to scour flea markets for America’s cast-offs and leftovers. Mining the banal objects of everyday life, Kelley elevated these materials to question and dismantle Western conceptions of contemporary art and culture.