Mike Kelley's 'Kandors' Come to Chelsea

NEW YORK CITY -- A major Mike Kelley exhibition in New York has been announced by Hauser & Wirth. It will be the gallery's first U.S. exhibition devoted to this influential artist.

Art collectors of Art Kabinett social media network are excited to visit the Mike Kelley exhibition.

Organized in collaboration with the Mike Kelley Foundation for the Arts, it will focus exclusively on one of the most significant of Kelley’s later series, 'Kandors'.

These visually opulent, technically ambitious sculptures combine with videos and a sprawling installation never before exhibited in the United States, as the late Los Angeles artist reworks the imagery and mythology of the popular American comics book hero Superman into an extraordinary opus of nurture and loss, destruction, mourning and redemption.

Kelley’s Kandors (1999, 2007, 2009, 2011) are named for Superman's birthplace, the capital of the planet Krypton.

According to comics book legend, Superman’s father Jor-El sent his infant son to safety on Earth before Krypton’s destruction, saving his life but inadvertently sentencing Superman to a future of displacement, loneliness, and longing.

Superman grows up believing that Kandor was destroyed, but later discovers his real home still exists: Kandor was stolen by intergalactic archvillain Brainiac prior to Krypton’s demise, shrunken to a miniature metropolis, and left trapped inside a glass bottle.

Superman ultimately wrests Kandor away from Brainiac and hides it in his Fortress of Solitude, sustaining its citizens with tanks of Kryptonic atmosphere.

As Kelley once explained, Kandor functions for Superman as “a perpetual reminder of his inability to escape the past, and his alienated relationship to his present world.”

Entering the exhibition at Hauser & Wirth, visitors encounter a group of vitreous sculptures glowing in a dimly lit room.

Kandor Revisited

Cast in resin, these miniature metropolises representing the city of Kandor create an optically dazzling spectacle rendered in a palette of refracted colors.

Visitors continue through the space to find ‘Kandor 4’ (2007), in which Kelley has abstracted and reinterpreted the narrative of the city in a complex amalgamation. ‘Kandor 4’ comprises three cities standing on a plinth, illuminated from beneath, with their towering architectural skylines bathed in tones of yellow, red, and blue.

The fantastical cities are juxtaposed with an ultraviolet glass bottle resting on a yellow base, connected to a gas tank and hose intended to evoke the life sustaining vapors Superman used to keep the citizens of Kandor alive beneath their glass bell jar.

In the final component, a video projection depicts ‘Bottle 4’ with an array of swirling atmospheric and light effects inside it, accompanied by an otherworldly soundtrack composed by Kelley.

Each unique representation of Kandor in the exhibition derives from one of the many illustrations of the city by various artists in the Superman comics, beginning with Action Comics #242 (July 1958).

Intrigued by the stylistic and architectural inconsistencies that marked Kandor’s representation in the ensuing half century, Kelley selected twenty strikingly diverse illustrations from the original comics panels.

He manipulated and superimposed the designs and colors of these illustrations, which he enlarged to life-scale and employed to create a group of light boxes.

Exploded Fortress of Solitude

A selection of these light boxes illuminates the darkened hallway leading visitors to the exhibition's innermost room and most significant element: ‘Kandor 10B (Exploded Fortress of Solitude)’ (2011).

One of the final works of the Kandors series, ‘Exploded Fortress of Solitude’ suggests a dramatic denouement for the fated city, a possible catharsis not only for Superman but for Mike Kelley.

It emblematizes the articulation that preoccupied Kelley in the years before his suicide, between his two great serial enterprises of the twenty-first century, Kandors and the Extracurricular Activity Projective Reconstructions (of which ‘Vice Anglais’ was the 36th and final installment, along with its pair, ‘EAPR #36B [Made in England],’ in which the dialogue of #36 is spoken by a variety of mostly ceramic objects “made in England”).

From within the depths of Superman’s fortress, the visitor is reunited with the city of Kandor, now rendered as a glowing rose-colored emanation encased beneath a bell jar.

Eerily illuminating the darkness of the rocky chamber, the roseate Kandor reveals that the crevices of Superman's solitary sanctum sanctorum actually glitter with tiny gold trinkets. The Fortress of Solitude has indeed exploded.

Chaos has triumphed over order and long years of preservation have succumbed to galactic cataclysm -- but we are left with a pot of gold.

Mike Kelley (b. Detroit 1954 -- d. Los Angeles 2012) is widely considered one of the most influential artists of our time. Kelley worked in a startling array of genres and styles, including performance, installation, drawing, painting, video, photography, sound works, text, and sculpture. He also worked on curatorial projects; collaborated with many other artists and musicians; and left a formidable body of critical and creative writing.

Mike Kelley' will be on view at Hauser & Wirth's downtown location at 511 West 18th Street September 10 through October 24, 2015.

Today's homepage Featured Art Video offers a glimpse of Mike Kelkey's huge installation, Exploded Fortress of Solitude. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zBKbSvaRJY4&sns=em