June/July/Aug 2007

Day is Done

Eric Banks


Like a guidance counselor who got his teaching certificate in Bayreuth, Mike Kelley has for years labored at his own Ring cycle of sorts—Educational Complex—but with vampiric thespians and peppy spirit leaders as ersatz Wotans and Frickas. In 2005, New York’s Gagosian Gallery mounted the fun-house installation of Day Is Done. The creepy anthropological tour of the perversejust- under-the-surface cultures of donkey-basketball competitions and Youth for Christ nativity plays was ecstatically brought to life in a Gesamtkunstwerk of photography, sculpture, costume, sound, and video based on the faithful reenactment and fanciful reimagination of period yearbook shots. Now, the catalogue documenting Day Is Done and its various components leaves no stone unturned. With 655 color plates (no, that is not a typo) immaculately printed in Germany, production notes, scripts to the various videos, and the blueprint of the installation, not to mention two CDs containing the musical score, it’s a visual and aural orgy for any fan of Kelley’s work. (If it’s something less polymedially perverse you’re looking for, Mike Kelley: 1975–1994 Works, published by Medium and distributed in the United States by DAP, offers a truncated overview, mostly of the artist’s works on paper.) Will art books ever be the same?

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