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Deathcaps/One-on-One In Search of Obscure & Dangerous Desire
June 14, 1998 
Courtesy of Headlands Center for the Arts, San Francisco


In conjunction with the survey show of his work at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (June 13 - Aug 23 1998) conceptual/performance/installation artist Martin Kersels will extend a slide-accompanied overview of his work into a simultaneous one-on-one basketball game with audience members who accept his challenge; in addition, the audience will be invited to stump the artist with questions from any field of general knowledge including but not limited to pop culture, science, and history. This interaction will be followed by a fun, informative discussion with mycology expert Bill Freedman, focusing on the perils and recent proliferation of deathcap mushrooms in current meteorological conditions. Through this real-world investigation and physical and mental challenges, the artist will underline the startling points and paths he pursues in producing his own creative work, as well as proving that he might be justified in the fear of looking stupid as he runs the risk of employing chance elements in the presentations themselves.


Born: 1960, Los Angeles, CA
Lives and works in New Haven, CT

Martin Kersels’ performative practice spans sculpture, photography, installation and action. He is best known for his laughter-inducing works that consider the dichotomies of humor and pathos within the human condition. Interested in pushing themes of scale, tension and the effects of gravity into more conceptual directions, Kersels injects a playfulness in his work to reveal the awkwardness associated with not belonging. Documentation of performances through photography and video, which shows the artist experimenting within his own body in a series of simple actions— tossing, falling, hugging, smacking, tripping and whirling— and his performative objects and installations uncover the darker absurdities of the body, space, and movement. 

Born in 1960 in Los Angeles, Kersels currently lives and works in New Haven, CT. He received from UCLA both his BA in 1984 and MFA in 1995. From 1984 to 1993, Kersels participated in collaborative performances with SHRIMPS, an alternative performance art group associated with artful maladroit actions that he co-founded. His decision to expand his practice of performative gestures and collaborations to include performative sculptures, objects and assemblages was pivotal. 

His objects and projects have been the subject of major solo and group exhibitions, including the Whitney Biennial (1997, 2010); XXXXXXXXO at Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (2013); Charms (Black Cloud/Green Dog/Little, Little Boy/White House/Silver Clouds) at Santa Barbara Museum of Art (2012); Tumble Room at Museum Tinguely, Basel (2010); Heavyweight Champion at Tang Museum, Saratoga Springs (2007) and Santa Monica Museum of Art (2008); Disorderly Conduct at Orange County Museum of Art (2008); 100 Artists See God at Institute of Contemporary Art, London (2005), and more. Other important exhibitions of Kersels’ work have been held at Fondazione Prada, Milan; Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; Kunsthalle Bern; Musée d'Art Contemporain, Marseille; Musée Cantonal des Beaux Arts, Lausanne; Museum of Contemporary Art, Denver; Renwick Gallery at Smithsonian Institute, Washington, DC; and Swiss Institute for Contemporary Art, New York, among others.

His work is held in public collections at major institutions worldwide, including Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona; Santa Monica Museum of Art, Santa Monica, Orange County Museum of Art, Newport Beach; Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; MoCA, Los Angeles; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles; Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami; Fonds national d'art contemporain, Paris; Centre national des arts plastiques, Paris; and Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona.

All images © Martin Kersels.