Nicolas Lobo’s “Wellness Center” [Art Agenda]

Rather than the Belgian town of Spa, where, starting in the sixteenth century, the diseased and melancholic would drink chalybeate and engage in other watery therapies, I was in Detroit, sitting in SAUNA SHELF by Nicolas Lobo (all works 2019). The one-person octagonal sauna was encased in pink waterproof fabric, pulled taut and tie-dyed with black, marbled patterns. With deep breaths of the mist pumping in, my lungs and dermis chemically merged with the Vicks VapoRub and cuttings from the red cedar tree in the yard out front. This was the first recommended step in Lobo’s exhibition “Wellness Center,” located in the final project completed by artist Mike Kelley before his apparent suicide. Mobile Homestead (2006–13) is a replica of Kelley’s childhood home, a ranch-style house in the Detroit suburb of Westland. The full-size replica, which stands next to the parking lot of the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, is used for community gatherings, AA meetings, and exhibitions unrelated to Kelley and his work. As I sat in Lobo’s sauna, an artwork within a larger artwork, listening to the hum of a nearby fridge, my senses of public and private, wellness and not-so-wellness, started webbing together.

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