Kiki Smith’s practice addresses the philosophical, social and spiritual aspects of human nature. By manipulating everyday materials such as glass, ceramic, fabric and paper, Smith’s work examines the dichotomy between the psychological and physiological power of the body.Read More
As a young girl, one of Smith’s first experiences with art was helping her father–American sculptor Tony Smith–make cardboard models for his geometric sculptures. This training in formalist systems, combined with her upbringing in the Catholic Church, would later resurface in Smith’s evocative sculptures, drawings, and prints. The recurrent subject matter in Smith’s work has been the body as a receptacle for knowledge, belief, and storytelling.
In the 1980s, Smith literally turned the figurative tradition in sculpture inside out, creating objects and drawings based on organs, cellular forms, and the human nervous system. This body of work evolved to incorporate animals, domestic objects, and narrative tropes from classical mythology and folk tales. Life, death, and resurrection are thematic signposts in many of Smith’s installations and sculptures.
In 2003, The Museum of Modern Art, New York exhibited a survey of Smith’s printed art, Kiki Smith: Prints, Books & Things. In 2005, Smith’s retrospective A Gathering: 1980-2005 was held at the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, and toured to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York and La Colección Jumex, Mexico City. The same year, to coincide with the 2005 Venice Biennale, Smith exhibited Homespun Tales at the Fondazione Querini Stampalia, Venice.
In 2008, Smith produced Her Home, a site-specific installation in collaboration with Museum Haus Esters, the Kunstmuseen Krefeld, which then toured to the Kunsthalle Nürnburg and the Fundació Joan Miró, Barcelona.
Smith was the 2009 recipient of the 50th Edward MacDowell Medal, as well as the Skowhegan Medal for Sculpture and the Athena Award for Excellence in Printmaking at the Rhode Island School of Design. In 2005 she was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters, New York. In 2016, the International Sculpture Center awarded Smith their Lifetime Achievement Award.
Smith’s work is in numerous prominent museum collections, including the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles.
Kiki Smith was born in 1954 in Nuremberg, Germany.
Text courtesy Timothy Taylor.
STROLLING WITH THE ARTIST Kiki Smith down the not-entirely-gentrified East Village block where she lives and works, in a townhouse with a cherry-red door, can take a remarkably long time. It's not that she isn't nimble — at 64, she has energy to match her famously prodigious output, able to navigate in a billowing black cotton shift around...
The female body. Its bones and limbs, its emotions, its animal instinct, its bodily functions, its secrets and anxieties, its sexuality, its illnesses and pain. There is no part of it that has been left unexplored by the fearless American artist Kiki Smith, a pioneer of contemporary feminist art who has grappled with female beauty, shame...
Before the restoration of the Eldridge Street Synagogue, birds flew in through holes in the roof. The animals roosted in the 19th-century structure that was once a haven for Eastern European Jews on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, but it had fallen into a decline because of a shrinking membership and its leaking sanctuary was closed off half a...
Stars are again on Smith’s mind. Her unassuming new show of fifty works at the synagogue, now a museum, is titled Below the Horizon, in recognition, according to the exhibition, of the fact that we only see the stars once the sun has gone down. Sunsets are a fine metaphor for the museum’s extended period of decline.
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