At the end of July, the Mike Kelley Foundation for the Arts announced that artist Gary Simmons will join their board of directors. Born in New York in 1964, Simmons now lives and works in Los Angeles. He will serve as the newest board member alongside John C. Welchman (chair of the board), Stephanie Barron, Catherine Opie, Claire Peeps, Edward Rada, and Joan Weinstein.
Simmons received the National Endowment for the Arts Interarts Grant and the Penny McCall Foundation Grant soon after he received his MFA from CalArts in 1990. Since then, he’s made a name for himself creating art that explore notions of race, class, and the concept of collective memory. He has utilized symbols of oppression and icons of American popular culture consistently throughout his works. He once said: ‘I am concerned with figuring absence, with negotiating between the static vocabulary of race, gender and class stereotype and the invisibility of the dimension of human history in the objects I create.’ Throughout his career, Simmons has worked in a number of mediums but developed an instantly-recognizable chalk on blackboard erasure technique and style that he is well-known for today. Its ghostly text, images, and symbols leaving an eerily haunting yet powerful message. His works can be found at the Miami Art Museum, New York’s Museum of Modern Art, and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. He is currently featured in exhibits at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago and the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis while his recent monumental exhibition ‘Fade to Black’ recently wrapped up at the California African American Museum in LA.
‘We are very excited to welcome Gary to the board of the Mike Kelley Foundation for the Arts,’ said Welchman. ‘His creatively critical work and thinking and engagement with art communities on both coasts will greatly benefit the mission of the Foundation to support bold, adventurous and risk-taking work and to bring these values into innovative programs and other outcomes as we build on Kelley’s remarkable legacy.’
The Mike Kelley Foundation was created by artist Mike Kelley (1954-2012) in 2007 to support artists and arts organizations. The foundation now carries on his legacy and commitment to the arts. Kelley worked in a variety of mediums including drawing, video, sound, painting, and performance addressing American popular culture and came into the limelight in the 1980s. The organization is currently headed by Mary Clare Stevens and offers a number of grants through the Artists Projects Grants, which it began in 2015 that ‘supports the creation of vital and often difficult-to-produce work.’
‘I’m thrilled to be joining the board of the Mike Kelley Foundation for the Arts, as I am deeply committed to its mission of supporting experimental and challenging work,’ said Simmons in a statement release by the foundation. ‘I admire Mike Kelley as an artist and am looking forward to working with the Foundation’s board and staff to honor his legacy.’