Kiki Smith is known. So much has been written about her. So many of her works are “classic” or “iconic”. And yet, Kiki is human. Of course, everyone is human, but with fame can come changes. Kiki still explores fragility with as much “authenticity” as when she was a young artist just starting out. Furthermore, just like when she was younger, there is no one subject or theme to her work. One cannot put it in a box or encapsulate it.
Krakow Witkin Gallery proudly announces an exhibition of two ‘bodies’ of work. The first is a group of recent sculpture made in the past five years. The second is a group of monoprints made between 2006 and 2020. Together, they provide a door into the artist’s thinking while simultaneously providing a window through which to see the world and its interconnectedness.
Kiki Smith has used and reused forms, stencils, matrices, ideas, molds and more throughout her life. Sculptures can consist of elements taken from drawings. Drawings can be collages of lithographs and etchings. Tapestries are made from collages and collages can be made from images of sculptures. Repetition and reuse go hand in hand with variation and alteration. With the monoprints on exhibition at Krakow Witkin Gallery, the primary process involves making a drawing, converting it into a rubber stamp, hand painting that rubber stamp and stamping paper with that painted stamp. This can seem straightforward and unremarkable. The ‘unremarkableness’ of a rubber stamp, though, is important. Directness of action, minimal pomp and simplicity are not just part of the artist’s process, but important to recognize in appreciating her work.
After stamping each work, she observes the inaccuracies, imperfections and/or irregularities with what she has done. Next, she proceeds to “fix” the image. This can involve drawing, stenciling, painting, and/or applying metal leaf or glitter. The image from one work (“Heart in Hand”, 2015) can be selectively printed and altered to create a different piece (“Little Bird”, 2019) and then the process done again (“Radar Love”, 2020). Looking at her process as an analogy for life, and then adding to that the symbolism of her imagery (birds, bats, internal organs, etc) one gets a poetic representation, created sensitively, that asks for a viewer to take a leap of faith in exploring the seemingly normal as extraordinary and something to be treasured.
The artist talks about the peace she gets from doing these works. From the joy of working in a small size, to the ability to be free with irregularities, she has made this format of work for a good number of years and Krakow Witkin Gallery is honored to present the first survey of them.
Curator Laurence Schmidlin, who has just curated a large exhibition of Kiki Smith’s work in Switzerland at Musée cantonal des Beaux-Arts de Lausanne, wrote the following:
“Since the early 1980s, Kiki Smith (born in 1954) has focused on the body and its functions, but also its symbolic meaning, status in social space, and representations. Having described the body fragment by fragment, Smith went on to tackle it as a whole starting with its envelope, the skin, then broadened her focus to examine humans’ relationship with the animal and plant kingdoms. This evolution from the microscopic to the macroscopic has always been stamped by the attention she has paid to the senses.”
Kiki Smith’s sculptures in Krakow Witkin Gallery’s current exhibition are cast from either aluminum or bronze. The “imagery” is a strong balance between the celestial and fauna. Motion is implied but time has momentarily stopped. As Schindlin describes, Smith’s focus on sensory perception of all things living (human, animal and nature-based) presents the artist’s worldview where things are all of equal importance and respect is key.
Concurrently with the gallery’s exhibition, the artist has two museum shows on view: ”Hearing You with My Eyes: Kiki Smith” at Musée cantonal des Beaux-Arts de Lausanne, Switzerland and “Kiki Smith: Water” at Storm King Art Center in New Windsor, New York.