DETROIT
03/19/2013 09:01 am ET Updated May 19, 2013

Mike Kelley: The Escape Artist - WSJ.com

LAST DECEMBER, on a cold night in Amsterdam, a crowd packed into the newly expanded Stedelijk Museum for the opening of a major retrospective of Los Angeles artist Mike Kelley. The 19th-century institution had just undergone a nine-year, $172 million overhaul--much of it poured into the construction of a creamy new wing dubbed The Bathtub. Inaugurating the space with a show of Kelley's work was designed to send a signal to the contemporary art world that the museum was back, and smartly so.

Organizers devoted nearly six years to chronicling the career of this provocative performer, painter, musician, sculptor and installation artist, and the 200 artworks on display represented some of Kelley's best. These included his 1987 masterpiece More Love Hours Than Can Ever Be Repaid, a cheery yet unnerving tapestry he created by sewing together dozens of crocheted dolls and handmade stuffed animals he found at flea markets--objects of homespun affection that had been tossed out.

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