Initially, I claimed I would write up Mike Kelley’s Day is Done at Gagosian Gallery, but I’ve been waffling on the subject since. Having read the Kimmelman review in the Times, my feeling is that it’s been pretty well covered. The show closes in two days, and at this point we’ve all heard that it’s a musical in 28 parts, requires no less three viewings to absorb and is a masterpiece of industry and desire.
Assuming you saw the Lichtenstein show in September at Gagosian Chelsea, Day is Done is going to look like a tour de force. September’s show suffered from a common problem at Gagosian, which is that more often than not, the shows end up looking like the high art version of a Leon’s factory outlet store. Content aside, you have to send Kelley a high five for solving this problem and transforming the giagantoid space into the oddball high school fantasy land currently on view.
My confession for today is that I got the Kelley show pretty much all wrong at first. Having read virtually nothing on the show when I saw it, my thoughts were based almost entirely on an inaccurate interpretation of the diptych photographs, an example of which is shown below.
My assumption was that the black and white photograph in this image was as constructed as the color reenactment. Which is to say, I saw the whole show as a construction of nostalgia for a time that never existed in the first place. It was disappointing to say the least, to learn that Kelley’s High School year book had been the source of inspiration. Still, it may be a measure of the show’s success, that everything reads as a construction. Ultimately, it demonstrates that nostalgia is something we make; it is a fetishization of a past that now seems just as unreal as Kelley’s 2005 remake.