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Mary Reid Kelley and Patrick Kelley Named Sachs Visiting Professors

The University of Pennsylvania Stuart Weitzman School of Design has appointed artists Mary Reid Kelley and Patrick Kelley the Keith L. and Kathy Sachs Visiting Professors in the Department of Fine Arts for the 2019 – 2020 Academic Year.

Over the last ten years, Mary and Pat have created a series of ambitious video works, scripted and performed by the artists on elaborate sets of their own creation. While often presented as videos, their work combines the disciplines of drawing, painting, sculpture, and installation, as well as responding to the histories of theater and film. The black and white videos resemble the era of hand-drawn cartoons, while also recalling the aesthetic of Cubism and German Expressionism.

The subjects in Mary and Pat’s works take on a variety of roles including that of nurse, a wartime sex worker, a saltimbanque [itinerant circus performer], and a grisette [female bohemian]. The narratives of the videos combine personal and historical narrative, for example in Priapus Agonistes (2013) the mythogical story of the Minotaur is retold in a space built on memories of watching church volleyball tournaments. More recently, their work has responded to other charged narratives including appraisals of the Objectivist novels of Ayn Rand and the wellness empire Goop created by Gwyneth Paltrow.

In The New York Times, Ken Johnson characterized the work “as a thinly veiled satire on today’s culture of vanity and waste, and on the unrealized promises of progress.” Writing about their most recent exhibition in Artforum, Andy Campbell said, “In Mary Reid Kelley and Patrick Kelley’s collaborative and often funny works, historical events are rendered as featherlight webs of consequences… [The work strikes a] restrained tone, knitting together histories of settler colonialism, the sociosexual politics of naval life, and President Harry S. Truman’s deployment of the atomic bomb.”

At Penn, Mary and Pat will be engaged with graduate students in the Department of Fine Arts. In the spring of 2020, they will give a public lecture at Penn’s Institute of Contemporary Art and will be leading a group of students to the west of Ireland to research the monastic impulse in artists and their works.

The artists’ works have been exhibited in solo exhibitions at Tate Liverpool, Baltimore Museum of Art, Kunsthalle Bremen, The High Line, New York, MUDAM Luxembourg, Hammer Museum, ICA Boston, and SITE Santa Fe. Their 2016 film This Is Offal won the Baloise Prize at Art Basel, and Mary Reid Kelley is a 2016 MacArthur Fellow. During their time at Penn, Mary and Pat will also be artists in residence at the Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia.

The Sachs Visiting Professorship has been previously held by Ralph Lemon, a choreographer, writer, visual artist, and curator; Josiah McElheny, a sculptor, performance artist, writer and filmmaker best known for his use of glass with other materials; and alumnus Wael Shawky (MFA’01), whose work tackles notions of national, religious and artistic identity through film, performance, and storytelling.

The mission of the Weitzman School of Design is to prepare students to address complex sociocultural and environmental issues through thoughtful inquiry, creative expression, and innovation. As a diverse community of scholars and practitioners, we are committed to advancing the public good–locally and globally–through art, design, planning, and preservation.

Media Contact: Michael Grant, senior director of communications, mrgrant@design.upenn.edu, 215.898.2539.