Mike Kelley. Exploring from Plato's Cave, Rothko's Chapel, Lincoln's Profile. 1985

Mike Kelley Exploring from Plato's Cave, Rothko's Chapel, Lincoln's Profile 1985

  • Not on view

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.
Medium
Acrylic on paper pinned to canvas
Dimensions
76 1/2 x 64" (194.3 x 162.6 cm)
Credit
Gift of the Friends of Contemporary Drawing, the Contemporary Arts Council, and The Junior Associates of The Museum of Modern Art
Object number
387.1999
Copyright
© 2019 Mike Kelley
Department
Drawings and Prints

Installation views

MoMA collaborated with Google Arts & Culture Lab on a project using machine learning to identify artworks in installation photos.

If you notice an error, please contact us at digital@moma.org.

If you would like to reproduce an image of a work of art in MoMA’s collection, or an image of a MoMA publication or archival material (including installation views, checklists, and press releases), please contact Art Resource (publication in North America) or Scala Archives (publication in all other geographic locations).

All requests to license audio or video footage produced by MoMA should be addressed to Scala Archives at firenze@scalarchives.com. Motion picture film stills or motion picture footage from films in MoMA's Film Collection cannot be licensed by MoMA/Scala. For licensing motion picture film footage it is advised to apply directly to the copyright holders. For access to motion picture film stills please contact the Film Study Center. More information is also available about the film collection and the Circulating Film and Video Library.

If you would like to reproduce text from a MoMA publication or moma.org, please email text_permissions@moma.org. If you would like to publish text from MoMA’s archival materials, please fill out this permission form and send to archives@moma.org.

This record is a work in progress. If you have additional information or spotted an error, please send feedback to digital@moma.org.