Of all the artists who have emerged over the past fifteen years from the now-legendary California Conceptualist movement, Kelley has had the most profound impact on American art—with his scatological performance pieces, prolific writing, and large-scale installations featuring the abject souvenirs of middle-class adolescence (from dirty stuffed animals to crocheted couch throws). In Kelley's multimedia work, high and low are combined to create a kind of détente between the academic and the everyday. In this world old toys and groups of drawings executed in the style of mid-1950s comic books are marshaled together to examine the most intricate metaphysical problems.
This large drawing is from a group of ten works that explore a perennial artistic conundrum: truth versus illusion. Having rendered the interior of a cave in a style that recalls comic illustration and film, Kelley asks the viewer to enter into his illusion: in its original installation, the drawing, which drips with curiously scatological stalactites and stalagmites, was hung close to the floor, directly above and partially blocking a small entryway. Viewers were forced to crouch down and slide beneath it, strengthening the work's comparison of art viewing to cave exploration and making manifest the words that appear in the drawing itself: "When spelunking, sometimes you have to stoop . . . Sometimes you have to go on all fours . . . Sometimes even crawl. . . . Crawl worm!!"
Publication excerpt from The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA Highlights since 1980, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2007, p. 59.