Library Catalog

One of the most significant late 20th-century artists associated with conceptual art and postmodernism, and a central influence on feminist interventions into artistic practice, Mary Kelly (American, b. 1941) is a key figure in the transmission of poststructuralist and psychoanalytic theory to artists and arts scholars in the United States. Kelly's archive has been acquired by the Getty Research Institute in installments: the first comprised of materials from the late 1960s until approximately 2002, followed by materials from 2002 to the present. The Research Institute has also acquired the archive of Kelly's seminal Post-Partum Document (1973–1979), one of the most ambitious and influential artworks of the past fifty years.

Mary Kelly Papers, ca. 1960s–2004

Among the materials included in the archive are major projects produced by Kelly during her early career—An Earthwork Performed (1970), Nightcleaners (1972–1975), Women and Work (1973–1975), and Antepartum (1973)—as well as materials related to Kelly's involvement with feminism and other social movements, and with the Artist's Union. It also includes an assortment of Marxist, feminist, and political journals, pamphlets, and flyers—collected in both London and Beirut—and Kelly's collections of materials related to UK conceptual art in the 1970s.

Of particular note are Kelly's teaching materials. A leading artist educator among her generation, Kelly's former students include artists, curators, and scholars such as George Baker, Renee Green, Sharon Hayes, Emily Jacir, Miwon Kwon, Meleko Megosi, Helen Molesworth, Mungo Thompson, Kerry Tribe, and Wu Tsang, among many others. Renowned for her extremely rigorous teaching methods, this portion of Kelly's archive charts the development of those methods through syllabi, fascinating classroom and lecture notes, creative assignments, and photographic documentation from some of her earliest performative classroom projects.

Post-Partum Document Archive, ca. 1960s–1997

Following the birth of her son in 1973, Kelly began work on a new series that would become the defining project of her artistic career, as well as a key work in the history of conceptual art, feminist art, and postmodernism. Post-Partum Document (1973–1979) was a multiyear exploration of the mother-child relationship in which Kelly applied Lacanian psychoanalytic principles to the study of her own experience of child-rearing. The work staunchly undermined the abstracted conceptual-art subject by focusing on the intersubjectivities between mother and child, bringing a woman's experience to the forefront of conceptual work, while also highlighting divisions of labor in child-rearing—a subject that was still rarely discussed in the 1970s.

Completed over six years, the work was divided into as many parts, which were eventually acquired by major museum collections in Australia, Canada, England, Switzerland, and the United States. In light of this, the Research Institute's acquisition of the archive is particularly valuable for scholars seeking access to each section of the work from a single, unified collection.