Mike Kelley: Day is Done
Gagosian Gallery, 555 W. 24th St.
It’s rare to walk into a Chelsea gallery and feel truly disoriented. But Mike Kelley, the Los Angeles-based installation and performance artist, has succeeded in transforming the whitewashed space of the Gagosian into a raucous, troubling, and paradigm-shifting place. Day is Done is a video musical and installation based on the oddly pagan holidays and performances that take place in American high schools. Working from yearbook pictures of “extra-curricular activities,” such as Halloween parades and those terrible musicals we’d all like to forget, Kelley generated videos, photographs, and sculptural objects. Video fragments of singing witches, angels, and fascists play simultaneously on multiple screens throughout a maze of theatrical props and architectural elements. The overload of symbols and the disarming combination of narrative film, architecture, and quaint sculpture create an unnerving experience. Because of the visceral intensity and the wild juxtaposition of forms, this project is more radical and provocative than Kelley’s earlier pieces that feed on the weird tropes of American culture.
The (S) Files / The Selected Files
El Museo del Barrio, 1230 Fifth Avenue
The fourth of El Museo del Barrio’s biennial exhibitions of contemporary Latino/Latin artists, this edition is a smorgasbord of approaches to cultural identity. Involving 40 artists from the New York area and beyond, this show samples almost every contemporary art medium, from iPod sound art to beeswax sculptures to graphic novels. Most of the pieces are ambitious, well crafted, and clever — Wanda Raimundi-Ortiz’s cartoon wall drawings, Nicola López’s sprawling woodblock prints on mylar, and Carlos Aponte’s embroidered symbols of gender roles are especially noteworthy. Issues of cultural identity are present as muted undertones, only articulated clearly in the wall labels. In a video projection that flickers between footage of flying out of Mexico City and landing there, Graciala Fuentes obliquely references her Mexican identity. Works such as these confirm that a new era of identity art has arrived, one that focuses on quiet, personal explorations rather than confrontational statements.