In 1987 Mike Kelley began to make sculptures from stuffed animals, which he described as “the adult’s perfect model of a child”: cute, clean, sexless. However, Kelley’s plush toys, purchased secondhand from thrift stores and yard sales, were discarded and soiled from use. Seemingly beyond redemption, they are darkly humorous monuments to lost innocence and repressed trauma.
Deodorized Central Mass with Satellites was among Kelley’s last works to feature stuffed animals. The toys are clustered in a cellular arrangement of one “central mass” and 13 “satellites.” To avoid eliciting an emotional or sentimental response from viewers, Kelley sewed the animals face-in. They are surrounded by 10 brightly colored, abstract sculptures the artist called “deodorizers,” which release a pine-scented mist into the air. By contrasting the degraded consequences of consumer excess with the slick, reductive forms of modernism, Kelley taunts the hierarchies between high art and mainstream culture, between obsessive hygiene and moral decline.
Organized by Paulina Pobocha, Associate Curator, Department of Painting and Sculpture, with Abby Hermosilla, Curatorial Assistant, Department of Curatorial Affairs, and Gee Wesley, Curatorial Assistant, Department of Media and Performance.