Mike Kelley presents a new two-part mega-sculpture that is a recreation of a local landmark in Los Angeles' Chinatown. The 'wishing well' forms a fanciful, biomorphic landscape replete with grottos, Asian and Western statuary, and various receptacles for tossed coins. A large ramshackle cyclone fence decorated to resemble a Chinese gate surrounds the 9ft high and 15ft wide fountain to protect it. The history of this landmark is unclear, but creation myths told by local shop owners allege it was built in 1949 by burning railroad ties and boiling water through wet concrete. Close inspection of the mass contradicts this story but reveals that the fountain has been maintained and added to for many years by numerous people. Although it is now abandoned, as recently as the 1960's the sculpture was well-tended and lush with greenery.
Mike Kelley has built an almost perfect replica of the original tourist attraction and will exhibit the rock-like structure and its surrounding fence as separate sculptural components. This theme of presenting the biomorphic or "formless" aspect of the fountain sculpture and its enclosure as objects of different categories is articulated in related photo and painting works. These works are part of an ongoing exploration of the conventions of representing the "formless" in prosaic structures like the rock shaped buildings in Victorian zoos, amusement parks and camouflaged duck blinds.
Mike Kelley's work is represented in many prominent collections including the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York. He was included in the Whitney Biennial in 1985, 1987, 1989, 1991, 1993, and 1995. A retrospective was organized in 1993 by the Whitney Museum and traveled to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and Haus der Kunst in Munich. A retrospective of more recent work was organized in 1997 by the Museu d'art Contemporani, Barcelona, and traveled to the Center for Contemporary Art, Malmo, Sweden and the Stedelijk Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, The Netherlands. He participated in Documenta IX, 1991 and Documenta X, 1997 in Kassel Germany. Kelley received the Skowhegan Medal for Mixed Media in 1997.