Kiki Smith is a pioneer of contemporary printmaking and sculpture who has created a materially experimental and multifaceted body of work that explores the political and social aspects of human nature. This much-anticipated exhibition, curated by Petra Giloy-Hirtz, is her first solo UK exhibition in a public institution in 20 years.
Kiki Smith: I am a Wanderer is a retrospective exhibition, organised in close collaboration with the artist, that focusses on three distinctive areas of Smith’s practice: small sculptures created from the mid-1980s to present day; a selection from her printmaking, and the intricate Jacquard tapestries produced since 2012.
Her early small sculptures tackle bodily taboos such as decay, intimacy, mortality and physical pain. Smith says that she chose the human body as a subject because ‘it is the one form we all share’ and there is a poignant universality of experience in these sculptures of the human form fashioned from bronze, porcelain and crystal amongst many other materials.
In the early 1990s, Smith began depicting the natural world, starting with birds, and her art grew more mythological and folkloric. In these works, a menagerie of real and mystical creatures, delicate plants and shooting stars are presented to us in an astonishing abundance of materials.
Endlessly inventive, Smith has fashioned animal assortments in bronze, shells from gold, frogs from coloured glass, birds from beads, sea creatures from ink and flowers from precious silver. Exquisitely detailed etchings and drawings can also be seen alongside large-scale tapestries depicting empowered goddesses travelling through wild forests and starlit skies.
‘I am a wanderer’, Kiki Smith says, and as she roams she collects inspiration from a myriad of sources and cultures. Those looking at her art are transported with her to a multitude of lands and epochs, discovering new forms, materials and stories as they follow her wondrous journey.
Kiki Smith was born in 1954 in Nuremberg, Germany before her family moved to the United States in 1955. The daughter of the American actress and opera singer Jane Lawrence and the architect and Abstract Expressionist sculptor Tony Smith (1912–1980), she grew up in an artistic environment which informed her sense of possibility.