Artist biography

American sculptor, draughtsman and printmaker of German birth. She was brought up in New Jersey and attended Hartford Art School, CT (1974–6). By manipulating everyday materials such as glass, ceramic, fabric and paper, Smith's work examined the dichotomy between the psychological and physiological power of the body. Her influences came not from her father, Minimalist sculptor Tony Smith, but from his female contemporaries Louise Bourgeois, Eva Hesse and Lee Bontecou. Smith's first full-size sculptures of the body, a naked male and female couple (Untitled, beeswax, 1990; New York, Fawbush Gal.), are stoic figures, yet each is psychologically impeded by leaking bodily fluids; her milk nourishes nothing, his semen propagates nothing. Human power and powerlessness are also addressed in Blood Pool (bronze and glass, 1992; New York, PaceWildenstein Gal., see 1997–8 exh. cat., no. 3), in which vertebrae, no longer the fortitude of the body, protrude from the flesh. Breaking from the classical portrayal of women in art as harmonious and self-contained, Smith defined the female in terms of a woman's lived experience in such works as Lilith (silicon bronze and glass, 1995; e.g. New York, Met.), whose crouching, defecating body both threatens and cowers. A series of untitled collaged lithographs (1994; New York, PaceWildenstein Gal.), based on paper doily patterns in the shape of butterflies and snowflakes accompanied by paper eyes and vaginas, marked her departure from the body as the primary subject of her art.

Kiki Smith (exh. cat., Amsterdam, ICA, 1990)
Projects 24: Kiki Smith (exh. cat., New York, MOMA, 1990)
Kiki Smith (exh. cat., Montreal, Mus. F.A.; Fort Worth, TX, Mod. A. Mus.; 1996–7)
Kiki Smith: Convergence (exh. cat., Dublin, Irish MOMA, 1997–8)
Kiki Smith: All Creatures Great and Small (exh. cat., Hannover, Kestner-Ges., 1998)

10 December 2000

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