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The interviews gradually present evidence of a cultivated personality that mirrors the dramatic banality of Ruscha’s work. So he consistently downplays all art-related decisions—Q: “Why photograph gas stations?
He sometimes comes off as an overcaffeinated grad student, manically connecting historical/political considerations of feces to the TV show Double Dare, for instance.
That said, his reference-capability is impressive, and a big part of what makes his art so interesting.
At the contest, surrounded by frat boys, Kelley recounts a blasphemous impromptu speech he gave on the “evils” of the opposing football team, rhetoric that obviously resonates contemporaneously.
While the second volume includes primarily project statements, Kelley’s often read as essays and are as enjoyable as the critical, theoretical, and creative essays in Foul Perfection.
Not to mention their demonstration that artists can, and should, double as compelling writers if they have any interest in subverting the infantile art world position Kelley believes they’re inevitably assigned.
As he writes, “All of us know, those who possess language have an advantage over those who do not.” Imagine if writing was a purely visual endeavor without linguistic or syntactical meaning.
Somewhere in Kelley writes, “Silence is often construed as a sign of intelligence, so the best tactic is to play dumb,” a notion he obviously rejects in his own practice.
He argues various times that the artist is “infantilized” by a relationship where critics act as intermediary between artist and audience, interpreting the artist’s thoughts and gestures, which belong to the realm of the “magical.” What makes Rosler’s and Kelley’s books so valuable is their disavowal of the concept of the artist as shamanistic creator, spiritually possessed to create work that’s somehow intrinsically “inside them,” waiting to be expressed.
Of the three artists, Kelley is by far the most willing to write about himself and discuss his own work.
Although he writes in (the first of the two volumes of his writing) that he dislikes writing and only took it up as a means of defending aesthetic decisions that proved impenetrable to the art world, he does so engagingly and charmingly, and both volumes are filled with hilarious anecdotes and refreshingly descriptive explanations.