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A Voyage of Growth and Discovery into The Realm of Meh.

July 10, 2010

The entrance to the Farley Storage at 1669 Colorado Blvd. done up like a doctor's office.

In art school we learn that the “Art World” resides in the East. The East being New York City. In the Los Angeles “Art World” we  look to The West,  as in The West Side. So it is quite a treat to have such a large art installation pop up on the Northeast side.

Giant Mike Kelley sculpture reaches to the ceiling of the storage warehouse.

In May, Pasadena-based Public Art organization West of Rome, world-renowned Eagle Rock artist Mike Kelley, and performance artist Micheal Smith opened an art installation in the Farley Storage Building on Colorado Blvd. in Eagle Rock titled, The Voyage of Growth and Discovery.

The installation consists of a doctor’s office reception area that the spectator enters from off Colorado Blvd. leading to a small door that enters into a vast darkly lit warehouse. Inside the warehouse the viewer finds a row of porta-potties, a 1960’s Volkswagen camper bus, playground sculptures, spot lighting, car lot flags, and six synchronized video screens showing the six days of Micheal Smith in the character of Baby Ikki spent at the 2008 Burning Man festival. (Side note: none of the press material for this show mention that it is supposed to be Burning Man, only that it takes place at “a festival in the Black Rock desert in 2008.”)

The six video screens provide a cacophony of sights and sounds that document Micheal Smith’s exploration and discoveries as the man-child, Baby Ikki. Apparently, this baby character is one Micheal Smith has employed in previous performances. Here it is utilized as a means for exploring the new and fantastic world created by the participants of the Burning Man festival.

Baby Ikki seems like a perfect vehicle for exploring such an imaginative place as Burning Man, and the extent of the materials used for this art installation, one can see quite a sum of money was spent to bring this production to the public, but in the end this art installation leaves this viewer leaving the Farley Building with the impact of simply “Meh.”

This is not the Playa. Just the best Mike Kelley and Michael Smith could do.

You see, having participated at Burning Man, and knowing the inner-workings of the event, this inspired by Burning Man piece comes off disappointingly uninspired and somewhat annoying. I get the concept, but coming from such a biased perspective, the attempt is lost.

Performance Art has the unfortunate power of not being able to look away when it is bad. The baby man of Micheal Smith at Burning Man gets annoying really fast especially when one has an understanding about the event, and it’s origins. “Radical self-expression” playland  yes, but born out of Anarchist principles of self-reliance and responsibility within a Temporary Autonomous Zone. The Baby Ikki schtick comes off as a misguided attempt to play off the huge collaborative art event of Burning Man. The whole piece seems like a wasted opportunity to make something meaningful.

Rocket sculpture and images from two of the continuously playing giant video screens.

The Artist, Micheal Smith as Baby Ikki.

A Voyage of Growth and Discovery
by Mike Kelley and Michael Smith

May 26th – August 26th
Wednesday to Saturday: 12pm to 7pm
Sunday 1pm to 6pm

THE FARLEY BUILDING
1669 Colorado Blvd.
Eagle Rock, CA 90041

Admission is FREE, and they are participating in Saturday’s NELA Art Night on July 10th.
(If you see this for yourself, take a pair of roller skates, or do as I did, ride your bike through the exhibit. It makes it more fun.)

2 Comments leave one →
  1. July 10, 2010 8:22 am

    Both Mikes have been known to sport the diapers look on occasion

  2. February 9, 2012 11:24 am

    Rest In Peace Mike Kelley. http://articles.latimes.com/2012/feb/02/local/la-me-mike-kelley-20120202

    In light of his recent suicide, I was feeling some regret about this post. But after re-reading it, I realize I was much more gentle than I thought. Being a fan of his art, I found this particular work to be especially disappointing and really hate that it was his last major piece I got to see.

    Thankfully, this is just one example of out a very prolific life. It is much consolation that after this piece, I did get to see my favorite piece from him, “Pay for Your Pleasure” (1988), when it showed that fall with MOCA’s ‘The Artist’s Museum’ show. Also his 35-year retrospective will be touring after it premieres at The Whitney Biennial in a couple of months. That is Art’s greatest value, it outlives us.

    A memorial to Mike Kelley can be found a block from his Highland Park home on Annan, at 5806 Tipton Way.

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