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Mike Kelley

Educational Complex



Mike Kelley (1954-2012)


Educational Complex




Painted foam core, fiberglass, plywood and wood


Overall: 57 3/4 × 192 3/16 × 96 1/8 in. (146.7 × 488.2 × 244.2 cm)

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Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Purchase, with funds from the Contemporary Painting and Sculpture Committee

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A representation of every school Mike Kelley attended, as well as the house that he grew up in—with all parts that he has since forgotten omitted—Educational Complex is a reconstruction of the artist’s past in the form of a tabletop architectural model. Elaborating on his earlier works—frequently made with stuffed-animals—that critique the sentimentality with which American culture regards childhood, Educational Complex presents a return to one’s past as a subjective, perhaps impossible proposition. As the artist himself estimated, the spaces he depicted from memory represent only a small fraction of the actual structures on which they are based. According to Kelley, Educational Complex was intended to evoke not only his own memories, but also broader social issues concerning childhood. As he remarked, it “was done directly in response to the rising infatuation of the public with issues of Repressed Memory Syndrome and child abuse. . .and the popularization of. . .therapy which was predicated on the idea that certain traumatic events. . .are repressed and only removed later through therapy.”

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