Tabita Rezaire, Premium Connect, 2017.
Tabita Rezaire, Premium Connect, 2017.

Mike Kelley Foundation for the Arts 2020 Artist Project Grants Announced

Los Angeles, CA. April 22, 2020 —The Mike Kelley Foundation for the Arts announced today the 2020 recipients of its Artist Project Grants, marking the fifth year of an initiative that furthers Mike Kelley’s philanthropic work and legacy by supporting projects that reflect and honor his multifaceted artistic practice. The Foundation awards the grants to Los Angeles artists and nonprofit institutions and organizations that undertake compelling, inventive, and risk-taking work in any medium, particularly projects that have proven difficult to develop or fund. This year’s grantees are the Armory Center for the Arts; California Institute of the Arts/REDCAT (Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater); Fulcrum Arts/homeLA; Human Resources LA; Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions (LACE); Los Angeles Filmforum; Pieter; Vincent Price Art Museum; and Visual Communications Media.

"Every year it is a tremendous honor to support the vital work of artists and arts organizations in Los Angeles. In the midst of a global crisis that is putting an unprecedented strain on our cultural community, grantmaking in the arts has a heightened sense of urgency,” said Mary Clare Stevens, Executive Director of the Foundation. “While our grants in the past have primarily supported project-related expenses, this year, we will be more flexible. We will work closely with each grantee and find the best ways to buoy their work during this time. As a start, we will extend the timeline of the public presentation of the projects and make any other modifications deemed appropriate for public health considerations and the project’s intentions.”

This year’s recipients include a range of small and mid-size organizations. Some have a longstanding presence in Los Angeles, such as Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions (LACE), which was founded in 1976 and offered critical support for Mike Kelley’s early performances. With their exhibition Intergalactix: against isolation/contra el aislamiento, LACE will bring together artworks examining the violence generated from physical and conceptual borders, and the severe immigration policies between Mexico and the United States. The project is intended to establish a platform for exchange and dialogue between artists, poets, activists, and writers from different regions, as well as a practice against isolation, which is particularly resonant in light of what is happening in the world right now.

Pieter, founded in 2009, offers a community arts space that allows dancers to collaborate in a non-hierarchical environment without regard for the ability to pay. Their exhibition Knees, Schools, Urges will engage local artists to respond to the history of modern dance activity in early 20th century Los Angeles and will eventually be installed throughout the Barnsdall Gallery Theatre building.

The Armory Center for the Arts will bring together the work of three important Los Angeles artists who met as graduate students in the newly formed MFA program at the University of California, Irvine in the exhibition how we are in time and space: Nancy Buchanan, Marcia Hafif, Barbara T. Smith. “The support of other artists means a great deal to me, and I deeply appreciate this endorsement,” said artist Nancy Buchanan. “Mike is an artist I will always appreciate for his wit, insight, and daring. When I worked as technical director on the first two videos that Mike made with Paul McCarthy at a cable access facility, l remember how spontaneous and willing to experiment he was.”

The Vincent Price Art Museum will mount the research-driven exhibition Sonidx: Audio Culture in Latinx Art. The project examines sound-based works by Latinx artists from the early avant-gardism of experimental sound art to new interdisciplinary practices, locating the work in the context of art history. “Support from the Mike Kelley Foundation enables us to be expansive in the scope of this exhibition, and to be artist-focused and inclusive of numerous practices across the country,” explains Pilar Tompkins Rivas, Director of the Vincent Price Art Museum and curator of the exhibition. “This critical funding allows us to be ambitious with this project, and to explore the topic of sound in Latinx art in interdisciplinary and experimental ways.”

Using sound art pioneer Maryanne Amacher’s body of work as a point of departure, Human Resources LA will invite artists to respond to Amacher’s contributions while bringing the resonances they find into new formal and conceptual territories through a series of public programs. Fulcrum Arts and homeLA will present interdisciplinary performance events by artists Julie Tolentino and Rashaun Mitchell + Silas Riener at the Neighborhood Unitarian Universalist Church in Pasadena, a culmination of months of exploration and collaboration in response to notions of home as a progressive, long-standing, spiritual community. "For me/us, the Mike Kelley Foundation’s visionary support unfurls as flotation device, future-maker, and as spirit reinforcements for the dreamers,” explains Tolentino. “This enables drawing people back together through precarious histories in order to make more of our (urgent) time together, while centering the hapticality of touch. With homeLA and the Neighborhood Church and a lifetime inspired by the iconic influence of my sister, Rita, this grant moves with the eros of kinship, queer practice, and intimate witness."

The 2020 grantees were selected through a competitive application process by an independent panel that included Rita Gonzalez, Terri and Michael Smooke Curator and Department Head, Contemporary Art, Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Tim Griffin, Executive Director and Chief Curator of The Kitchen; Los Angeles-based artist Asher Hartman; Eungie Joo, Curator of Contemporary Art, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; and Los Angeles-based artist Martine Syms.

“We are grateful to be able to offer assistance to creative endeavors that will need it in the months to come. From Nao Bustamante’s ambitious multimedia project at REDCAT, to Tina Takemoto’s collaboration with Visual Communications Media to engage audiences with Little Tokyo, to five newly commissioned international films at LA Filmforum, these grantees reflect the spectrum of incredible work being created and presented here in Los Angeles. It is crucial that they continue to be supported in their efforts—the arts are essential to our wellbeing now more than ever—and we are committed to doing that,” remarked Stevens. “The Foundation’s 2021 grant cycle will be open for application in June. To help us in the development of next year’s guidelines, we are in discussion with the arts community to assess their needs and how the Foundation can best address them in this disruptive environment.”

In response to the pandemic, The Mike Kelley Foundation for the Arts is also contributing to the newly created Artist Relief, which was formed to provide immediate relief for artists affected by COVID-19, stimulate artist wellness support systems, and learn about artists’ needs for future resource and advocacy development. The fund is spearheaded by a coalition of national arts grantmakers, consisting of the Academy of American Poets, Artadia, Creative Capital, Foundation for Contemporary Arts, MAP Fund, National YoungArts Foundation, and United States Artists.

About the Foundation

The Mike Kelley Foundation for the Arts advances the artist’s spirit of critical thinking, risk taking, and provocation in the arts. Established by Kelley in 2007, the Foundation seeks to further Kelley’s philanthropic work through grants to arts organizations and artists for innovative projects that reflect his multifaceted artistic practice.

The Foundation also preserves the artist’s legacy more broadly and advances the understanding of his life and creative achievements through educational initiatives including exhibitions, events, publications and the preservation and care of the Foundation’s art collections and archives.

About the Artist

The work of artist Mike Kelley (1954–2012) embraced performance, installation, drawing, painting, video, sound works, and sculpture. Kelley began his career in the late 1970s with solo performances, image/text works, and gallery and site-specific installations. He came to prominence in the 1980s with a series of sculptures composed of common craft materials. The artist’s later work addressed architecture and filmic narratives using the theory of repressed memory syndrome coupled with sustained biographic and pseudo-biographic inquiry into his own aesthetic and social history. Regarded as one of the most influential artists of our time, Kelley produced a body of deeply innovative work in dialogue with American popular culture as well as both modernist and alternative traditions.