Regarded as one of the preeminent figures in feminist art, Mary Kelly has had a profound influence on postmodernism and cultural politics, as well as the development and critique of conceptual art. Predominantly interested in the way language mediates between the social and the psychic, Kelly’s working process blurs the boundaries between the personal and the political.
Kelly first came to prominence with Post-Partum Document (1973-9), a sociological study of the intersubjective relationship between mother and child. Comprising 135 objects in six sections, the work provoked tabloid outrage when it was first exhibited at the ICA, London, in 1976, for incorporating a selection of her son’s stained nappy liners in the installation. Post-Partum Document is now considered one of the most important works of conceptual art to have been produced in the twentieth century, with critic and cultural historian Maurice Berger declaring it ‘one of this century’s most significant and influential artistic statements on identity’.
More recently, Kelly has developed a new body of lint works which explores what constitutes an era. The series 7 Days reincarnates iconic magazine covers depicting events from the 1970s that played a formative role in the artist’s life. In lint, Kelly found a medium that, in its ephemeral nature, exposed the artificiality of separation between the vicissitudes of politics and the seemingly hermetic content of everyday life.
Other significant works include Interim (1984-89), Gloria Patri (1992), Mea Culpa (1999), The Ballad of Kastriot Rexhepi (2001), Love Songs (2005-07) and the Circa Trilogy (2004-16).