Mike Kelley, a contemporary artist based in Los Angeles but internationally renowned, was found dead in his South Pasadena home Tuesday.
South Pasadena Police Sgt. Robert Bartl told the Associated Press it appears Kelley committed suicide Tuesday. A family friend who was concerned about Kelley went to his home and called 911.
"It is totally shocking that someone would decide to do this, someone who has success and renown and options," Helene Winer of New York's Metro Pictures gallery told Blouin ArtInfo.
His work explored the dark side of American Life, according to the New York Times. "He mixed and matched kitschy pop culture with classical philosophical themes," the Times says in an obituary, and he was particularly known for sculptures of dirty stuffed animals, with large mixed media installations that included pop culture figures like Colonel Sanders and Sigmund Freud.
An exhibition including his work, "Under the Big Black Sun: California Art 1974-1981" is currently being exhibited at the Museum of Contemporary Art, and is scheduled to be there until Feb. 13. The Gagosian Gallery in Beverly Hills also exhibited a number of his pieces this past year.
Kelley was born in 1954 and received his M.F.A. from Valencia's California Institute of the Arts. His work is in numerous museums, including New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art and Museum of Modern Art.
Kelley's studio released a statement that the Los Angeles Times published on its website saying: "Mike was an irresistible force in contemporary art. ... We cannot believe he is gone. But we know his legacy will continue to touch and challenge anyone who crosses its path. We will miss him. We will keep him with us."
The acclaimed artist was also a founding member of the influential Detroit anti-rock band, Destroy All Monsters (likely taking its name from 1968 Godzilla film). The musical deconstructionists formed in 1973 while Kelley was a student at University of Michigan and the band earned some protopunk notoriety with a noisy lineup that included members of The Stooges and MC5.
Destroy All Monsters
Destroy All Monsters - "Bored"