Go inside the worlds of art, fashion, design, and lifestyle.
On planet Krypton, there is a city named Kandor—and if you are a comic book fan, you won’t have any trouble remembering that this specific place is also home to crime-fighting hero Superman.
According to comic book legend, Superman’s father Jor-El sent his son to Earth for safety, as the people of Kandor believed it was soon to be destructed. After relocating to Earth, and growing up to deal with displacement, loneliness, and longing, Superman later discovers that his real home still exists, but that Kandor had been stolen by arch villain, Brainiac, before it was shrunken to a miniature metropolis, and left trapped inside of a glass bottle. After a drawn-out battle with Brainiac, Superman ultimately wins back Kandor and hides it in his Fortress of Solitude, sustaining its citizens with tanks of Kryptonic atmosphere. The entire premise of this current existence of Kandor, was, as Mike Kelly once said, “a perpetual reminder of his inability to escape the past, and his alienated relationship to his present world.”
“In a way, Braniac was the stealer of cultures, and in some respects, Superman himself had to in a sense partake in that moral dilemma of taking and holding, and Mike was very much like that with the history of art, and once he was both extraordinarly generous, and he felt maybe like Picasso grew up thinking about today,” said Hauser & Wirth partner Paul Schimmel, and curator of the exhibition. “He could sort of take it all in.”
This reminder, and many of its myths, systems, and beliefs, is now on view at Hauser & Wirth, as the solo-exhibition dedicated to the entirety of Kelley’s four decade-long career evolves around it.
Unexpected connections of America’s popular culture, and its many themes—adolescence, educational structures, sexuality, religion, post-punk politics, pop psychology, and repressed memory—are all seen depicted in the very truest light of Kelley’s dark humor.
Kelley’s representations of Kandor are seen in a variety of instances, such as in sculptures, 3-D images, and life-size lenticular light boxes. Through superimposed and manipulated designs and colors of original illustrations from Superman’s storyline within Kandor, the city, in this exhibition shines with vibrant colors, light, and transparency, and is brought down from its epic climax with “Exploded Fortress of Solitude.” The cavernous installation in the gallery’s main space is exhibited for the first time here in the United States, and demonstrates the monstrous work of Kelley that represents a dramatic denouement for Superman’s Fortress of Solitude.
Chaos has triumphed over order and preservation, and the crevices of Superman’s solitary space within the Fortress of Solitude have exploded. A revealing look into the uncanny archaic place now shows a glittering symbol of duality in life, wealth, and greed.
“Whether it’s references to Clifford Still, or Roy Lichtenstein, or to the original source materials, this is something that Mike—at this extraordinary period in his life—had all of these resources together,” said Schimmel. “And it was a very interesting relationship of ‘I’m going to make these for this scale of work, this kind of two-dimensional opportunity’ and simultaneously making something which, in his own mind, he couldn’t really see how it was going to end up anywhere but in his own possession. And that, maybe making it so big, and only that way, was because he kind of wanted it that way—in his home.”
The exhibition is on view until October 24.