Too much contemporary art is based on the concept that if you poke an amoeba with a pin it will move. Designed to provoke a response, it uses elements of great size, unsubtle figuration and--just so you don't miss the point--text of some sort: simple statements, double entendres .
Performance artist, painter and writer, Mike Kelly employs all of these devices to make thematic spaces. Like Jonathan Borofsky, he is a clever postmodernist. Drawings, glued felt constructions and painted, collaged furniture in his current show "Half a Man," read like the pages of a book. It's a handsome exhibit, a riot of color and bold, irreverent personal imagery.
Yet questions still nag. Kelly's writing and art make it clear that he is interested in presenting a synthesis of every expressive form he can lay his hands on. But only a couple of the objects in this show, such as the attractive "Animal Self," could be removed from it and remain interesting. Like religious icons most are aesthetically simplistic and arcane outside the context of the oeuvre.
Like many confrontational young artists of the 1980s, Kelly treads a line between inspiration and sophistry. Clever, but not deep, the artist himself says it best with one of his glued felt wall hangings titled "Trash Picker." Emblazoned on it in colorful letters is the declaration, "I Am Useless To The Culture But God Loves Me." (Rosamund Felsen Gallery, 669 N. La Cienega Blvd., to Dec. 31.)