Portraits, Celestial Bodies and Fairy Tales
Mary Ryan Gallery is pleased to present Portraits, Celestial Bodies and Fairy Tales, a solo exhibition of Kiki Smith’s prints from 1990 through now. Often known first as a sculptor whose transgressive early works confronted mortality and bodily decay, Smith is an innovative printmaker whose more recent work on paper explores nature, portraiture, and fairy tales. Printmaking became an essential part of Smith’s practice during the mid-1980s, and she persistently pushes the medium’s boundaries not only of style, technique, and imagery but also between print, drawing, and book.
On view is a selection of Smith’s most important prints, including Sueño (1992) and My Blue Lake (1995), that demonstrate her experimental approach and survey her shifting concerns from physical vulnerability to mythological and natural subjects. The life-sized figure of Sueño is the form of Smith herself but represents her sister, Beatrice, who died in 1988 during the AIDS epidemic. A technician traced Smith’s outline onto the copperplate, which the artist then filled in with twisted patterns that recall medical musculature drawings. Smith again takes her own image in the hand colored photogravure and lithograph My Blue Lake, using the British Museum’s 360-degree periphery camera to create an encompassing self-portrait and blending her features into landscape. Also on view are Smith’s interpretations of fairy tales, including the ambitiously large-scale homage to Lewis Carroll Come Away From Her (2003), and two artist’s books, Free Fall (1994) and Tidal (I See the Moon and the Moon Sees Me, 1998).
Kiki Smith (b. 1954 Nuremberg, Germany) is an American artist known primarily for her sculpture and works on paper that employ non-traditional materials to address feminist, philosophical, social, sexual, and political aspects of human nature. Smith’s first solo exhibition was hosted by The Kitchen in New York in 1982. Major solo exhibitions have since been held at Brooklyn Museum, New York; Centre d’Art Contemporain, Geneva; Museum of Modern Art, New York with an accompanying catalog by Wendy Weitman; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN; Whitechapel Art Gallery, London; and Whitney Museum, New York. Smith has also participated in important group exhibitions, including the Whitney Biennial, New York (1991, 1993, 2002); La Biennale di Firenze, Florence, Italy (1996, 1998); and the Venice Biennale, Italy (1993, 1999, 2005, 2009). She has received awards such as Skowhegan Medal for Sculpture in 2000, the Athena Award for Excellence in Printmaking from the Rhode Island School of Design in 2005, and the 50th Edward MacDowell Medal from the MacDowell Colony in 2009. In 2005, Smith was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Smith’s work is held in prominent museum collections, including the British Museum, London; Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University, Ithaca; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Princeton University Art Museum, Princeton; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; and Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. Smith lives and works in New York.