Geneva—Pace is honoured to return to its physical space with an exhibition of recent works by American artist Kiki Smith. Staged at 15-17 Quai des Bergues, Light will be presented from 9 September to 31 October 2020 and will examine Smith’s central themes of spirituality, mortality, mysticism, and their interconnections with the natural world. The first exhibition of Smith’s work presented at Pace in Geneva, Light will coincide with Hearing you with my eyes, a solo-exhibition presented at MCBA Musée cantonal des Beaux‑Arts, Lausanne (9 October 2020–10 January 2021). Storm King Art Center currently features a site-responsive grouping of new and recent, large-scale flag works by Smith. It is on view until November 9, 2020.
Kiki Smith is recognised for her multidisciplinary practice through which she explores the human condition. Drawn to the cogency of repetition in narratives and symbolic representations, much of Smith’s work is inspired by the visual culture of the past, spanning scientific anatomical renderings from the eighteenth century to the abject imagery of relics, memento mori, folklore, mythology, Byzantine iconography, and medieval altarpieces. Centred on the literal and symbolic meaning of light, the exhibition at Quai des Bergues will feature works from 1997 to 2019, spanning the full spectrum of media including sculpture, tapestry, print, and works on paper. Light will underscore the truly multifaceted approach to art-making Smith has pursued throughout her oeuvre.
The 2017 series, 'the light of the world' exemplifies Kiki Smith’s interest in both the aesthetic and processes of light. Made by etching delicate marks onto Plexiglas plates and then placing them one on top of the other over light sensitive paper, these cyanotype prints are an innovative reworking of the artist’s long-standing printmaking practice. By stacking the plates, Smith plays with the refraction of light, creating varying degrees of sharp and faint impressions. The resulting dreamlike compositions address not only the systems of nature, but also to the ways in which light shapes, distorts, clarifies and blurs the world around us. In contrast, Spectrum I, II, III (2010), take man made electrical light from a hanging bulb as their subject. In so doing, Smith’s practice seeks to explore the multitude ways in which light is harnessed and experienced.
'We are part of the natural world and our identity is completely attached to our relationship to our habitat and animals. I am making images for things I think merit attention. It’s a quieter way.' Kiki Smith.
It is this universal, yet oft forgotten, intersection of the human world and the natural world that captivates so much of Kiki Smith’s work. Through her practice, Smith creates a world in which all things—be they humans, animals, nature or the cosmos—are given equal weighting. Whether it is a delicate bronze wall sculpture such as Oak Leaves IV (2018), a minute bronze sculpture of a snail titled Wives and Mistresses (2019), or a monumental intricately executed Jacquard tapestry like Earth (2012), Kiki Smith approaches her subjects with a democratic view that is at once unifying and equalising.
Integrating the celestial universe into this realm, Quiver (2018), an installation made of bronze with gold and silver leaf depicts a female form partially obscured by small particles that radiate out into the surrounding space. Smith creates a feeling of other worldly spiritualism, commenting on our fluid relationship to the world around us. Similarly, the Sungrazer sculptures crystalise fleeting stars in motion through dense bronze. These wall mounted works are almost corporeal in their form, and much like Quiver, remind us that we are all made of the same substance. In the end, we are all just matter.
Through Sorcery, a series of nine etchings on Hahnemühle paper, Smith explores the mythological and folkloric within nature. These meticulously crafted artworks look to the minutiae of the natural world to examine themes of ageing, storytelling and magic. These works on paper resonate with Shadow 1 and 2, new bronze standing sculptures of the moon that speak to not only of the beauty of natural forms but also the forces that govern our universe.
Light follows the 2019 critically acclaimed exhibitions of Smith presented at Monnaie de Paris, France, and Modern Art Oxford, UK. Thirty years ago, Smith was the subject of an exhibition at Centre d’Art Contemporain de Genève. It was Smith’s first solo-exhibition in Europe. On the occasion of the MCBA Musée cantonal des Beaux‑Arts’ exhibition, an exhibition catalogue is forthcoming. It will feature details on Light.
Press release courtesy Pace Gallery.