Lecture: George Baker, "Mike Kelley: Sublevel"

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

6:30pm – 8:30pm

@ Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia


@ Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia

"Let's go down into the chapel of my basement--the shadowed domain of the tinkering genius," artist Mike Kelley wrote in his first published essay. "[T]hat which lies on the surface is often not of the same material as that which lies below it." Basements, sublevels, caverns, and underground tunnels would recur endlessly in the artist's wide-ranging projects, most often as an allegory of the unconscious. But they were also instrumental to Kelley's singular rethinking of modernism and its histories, an aspect of Kelley's work that has been increasingly evident since the project Educational Complex (1995) and its many progeny. In a wide-ranging overview of Kelley's work from the late 1970s to the recent video cycle Day is Done (2005), this lecture seeks to isolate Kelley's opening of form to an underneath or an "underground," a term Kelley understood in both formal and social or political ways. In a manner far different from our central narratives of the interplay of modernism and mass culture, Kelley's work forced a confrontation between the avant-garde and underground culture, a barely understood legacy of his oeuvre with which we will long have to grapple.

George Baker is Associate Professor of Art History at UCLA, where he has taught modern and contemporary art and theory since 2003. A New York and Paris-based critic for Artforum magazine throughout the 1990s, he also works as an editor of the journal October and its publishing imprint October Books. He regularly offers courses on all aspects of modernism and the historical avant-garde, on the history of photography in the 19th- and 20th-centuries, and on specialized topics in post-war and contemporary art history. Baker received his Ph.D. from Columbia University, and is a graduate of the art history program at Yale University and the Independent Study Program of the Whitney Museum of American Art. He has received, amongst others, an Andrew Mellon Fellowshipin the Humanities, CASVA and Whiting Foundation fellowships, and a postdoctoral fellowship from the Getty Research Institute. Professor Baker is the author, most recently, of The Artwork Caught by the Tail: Francis Picabia and Dada in Paris (MIT Press, 2007), and several other books including James Coleman: Drei Filmarbeiten (Sprengel Museum, 2002), and Gerard Byrne: Books, Magazines, and Newspapers (Lukas & Sternberg, 2003). He has published essays on a variety of postmodern and contemporary artists including Robert Smithson, Robert Whitman, Anthony McCall, Louise Lawler, Andrea Fraser, Christian Philipp Müller, Tom Burr, Rachel Harrison, and Knut Åsdam. In 2007 and 2008, his essay on the artist Paul Chan was published in a catalog that accompanied Chan's major exhibition of the project The 7 Lights at the Serpentine Gallery in London and the New Museum in New York. Baker subsequently published an interview with Chan for the recent anti-war issue of October. Currently, he is working on disparate projects including a revisionist study of Picasso's modernism and a shorter book on the work of four women artists—Zoe Leonard, Tacita Dean, Moyra Davey and Sharon Lockhart—to be entitled Lateness and Longing: On the Afterlife of Photography. The latter is part of a larger project that Baker has termed "photography's expanded field,"detailing the fate of photography and film works in contemporary cultural production.


This event has been made possible through generous support from The Mellon Program in Contemporary Art, 
The Keith L. Sachs and Katherine Sachs Program in Contemporary Art, The Spiegel Fund to Support Contemporary Culture and the Visual Arts, and the Institute of Contemporary Art at University of Pennsylvania.

The Institute of Contemporary Art is located at 118 S. 36th Street, Philadelphia, PA.