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  Kiki Smith Biography

Kiki Smith Biography

born January 18, 1954, in Nuremberg, Germany

Kiki Smith is an American artist classified as a feminist artist, a movement with beginnings in the twentieth century. Her Body Art is imbued with political significance, undermining the traditional erotic representations of women by male artists, and often exposes the inner biological systems of females as a metaphor for hidden social issues. Her work also often includes the theme of birth and regeneration, sustenance, and frequently has Catholic allusions. Smith has also been active in debate over controversies such as AIDS, gender, race, and battered women.

Smith began sculpting in the late 1970s. She is best known for her sculptures; however, she creates pieces in a variety of media. Her print collection is particularly extensive and began in the 1980s.

Smith's first works were screenprints on dresses, scarves and shirts, often with images of body parts. Smith printed an array of posters in the early 1980s containing political statements or announcing upcoming events. A sampling of her other works include: All Souls (1988), a screenprint on 36 attached sheets of handmade Thai paper with repetitive images of a fetus, in black and white. Smith created similar prints including Untitled (Baby's Heads), 1990 and Untitled (Negative Legs), 1991. How I Know I'm Here (1985) is a 16-foot, horizontal, four part linocut depicting internal organs including a heart, lungs, and male and female reproductive organs, intermingled with etched lines representing her own feet, face, and hands. Possession Is Nine-Tenths of the Law (1985) is a nine part print portfolio that individualizes and calls attention to the body's internal organs. Smith used the image of a human ovum, surrounded on one side by protective cells, in Black Flag (1989), and 'Cause I'm On My Time (inserts for Fawbush Gallery Invitations ) (1990).

Mary Magdelene (1994), a sculpture made of silicon bronze and forged steel, features a woman's nude body in an untraditional way: her whole body is flayed, skin removed to show bare muscle tissue. However, her face, breasts and area surrounding her navel remain smooth. She wears a chain around her ankle and her face is relatively undetailed and is turned upwards. Smith's sculpture Standing (1998), featuring a female figure standing atop the trunk of a dead Eucalyptus tree, is a part of the Stuart Collection of public art on the campus of the University of California, San Diego.

Smith has also created an extensive collection of self-portraits, nature-themed works, and many pieces that depict scenes from fairy-tales, often in unconventional ways.

She has created unique books including: Fountainhead (1991); The Vitreous Body (2001); and Untitled (Book of Hours) (1986). Smith collaborated with poet Mei-mei Berssenbrugge to produce Endocrinology (1997), and with author Lynne Tillman to create Madame Realism (1984).

Select Timeline

Select Exhibitions

  • 1992 - Silent Work, MAK-Osterreichisches Museum fur angewandte Kunst, Vienna, Austria
  • 1992 - Moderna Museet, Stockholm, Sweden
  • 1992 - Bonner Kunstverein, Bonn, Germany
  • 1993 - Barbara Gross Galerie Munich, Germany
  • 1994 - Kiki Smith, The Israel Mseum, JerUSlem
  • 1994 - The Ossuary, Luhring Augustine Gallery, New York
  • 1994 - Kiki Smith, Barbara Gross Galerie Munich
  • 1994 - Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humblebaek, Denmark
  • 1994 - The Israel Museum, JerUSlem, Israel
  • 1995 - Galerie Rudolfinum, Prag, Czech Republic
  • 1995 - Kiki Smith, Whitechapel Art Gallery, London, UK
  • 1996 - Works 1988-1995, St. Petri Kuratorium, Lubeck, Germany
  • 1996 - Young Americans: New American Art in the Saatchi Collection, Part 2, Saatchi Gallery, London, England
  • 1997 - Terra Firma, Art Gallery at the University of Maryland
  • 1998 - Constellation, Barbara Gross Galerie Munich, Germany
  • 1998 - The Mattress Factory Pittsburgh, US
  • 1998 - All Creatures Great and Small, Kestner Gesellschaft, Hannover, Germany
  • 1998 - Concentrations 20, Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas, US
  • 1998 - Invention/Intervention: Kiki Smith and The Museum, Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, PA
  • 1998 - Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden Washington D.C., US
  • 1998 - Kestner-Gesellschaft Hannover, Germany
  • 1999 - Schopfung, Zeitgenossische Kunst an historischen Orten: Karmeliten-Kirche, Munich, Germany; Diozesianmuseum Freising, Germany
  • 2000 - Realm: Recent Sculptures and Drawings, John Berggruen Gallery, SF, California
  • 2000 - Works with paper by Kiki Smith, St. Louis Art Museum, St. Louis, US
  • 2000 - Das Funfte Element - Geld oder Kunst, Stadtische Kunsthalle Dusseldorf, Dusseldorf, Germany
  • 2000 - Zeitwenden - Ruckblick und Ausblick, Kunstmuseum, Bonn, Germany
  • 2001 - Telling Tales, International Center of Photography, New York,US
  • 2001 - small sculptures and large drawings, Ulmer Museum, Ulm, Germany
  • 2001 - Life Wants to Live, The Kitchen, New York, US
  • 2001 - Concentrations 20, Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas, US
  • 2001 - Heart of Glass, Queens Museum of Art, Flushing Meadows, New York, US
  • 2001 - God is in the Details, Centre d'Art Contemporain, Geneva, Switzerland
  • 2002 - Sammlung Goetz, Museum Villa Stuck, Munich, Germany
  • 2002 - Whitney Biennial 2002 in Central Park, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, US
  • 2002 - Kiki Smith: Near, Galerie Lelong, Paris, France; Galerie Lelong, Zurich, Switzerland
  • 2003 - Homework, The Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia, US
  • 2003 - Private Offentlichkeit, Galerie im Museum Folkwang, Essen, Germany
  • 2003 - American Art Today: Faces and Figures, The Art Museum at Florida International University, Miami, US
  • 2003 - Warum! Why! Image Refelection Self-Image! Martin Gropius Bau, Berlin, Germany
  • 2003 - Kiki Smith: Works on Paper, Museum of Modern Art, Queens, New York, US
  • 2004 - 2005 - BIRDSPACE: A Post-Audubon Artists Aviary, Contemporary Arts Center, New Orleans, US. Travelled.
  • 2004 - 2005 - East Village US, New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York, US
  • 2004 - Noah's Ark, National Gallery of Canada at La Cite de l'energie, Shawinigan, Ontario, Canada
  • 2004 - Andata e ritorno, Artiste contemporanee tra Europa e US, Palazzo Bonacossi, Ferrara, Italy
  • 2004 - Bodily Space: Works from the Permanent Collection Albright Knox Gallery, Buffalo, US
  • 2004 - Art of the 1990s from the Logan Collection, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, US
  • 2004 - Otherworlds: The Art of Nancy Spero and Kiki Smith, Baltic The Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead, England
  • 2004 - Making the Body in Contemporary Sculpture, Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin College, Ohio, US
  • 2004 - Carpe Diem Press, Oaxaca: James Brown, Dan McCleary, George Moore, Kiki Smith and Rob Wynne, Texas Gallery, Houston, US
  • 2004 - East Village US, New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York, US
  • 2004 - Prints, Books & Things, The Museum of Modern Art, Queens, New York, US
  • 2005 - Exhibition of Work by Newly Elected Members and Recipients of Honors and Awards, The American of Arts and Letters, New York, US
  • 2005 - The Giving Person, Palazzo delle Arti Napoli, Palazzo Roccella, Italy
  • 2005 - The Forest: Politics, Poetics, and Practice, Nasher Museum of Art, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, US
  • 2005 - Homespun Tales, Storie di occupazione domestica, Fondazione Querini Stampalia, Venice, Italy
  • 2005 - Bronze Relief and Drawings, Barbara Gross Galerie Munich, Germany
  • 2006 - A Gathering, 1980-2005, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art travelling to: Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, US
  • 2006 - travelling to: Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, US
  • 2006 - Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston, US
  • 2006 - Whitney Museum of American Art, US

Select Artwork

  • Rapture, 2002
  • Dorothy (from the series Blue prints)
  • Splendid
  • In a Field, 2002
  • Woman With Owl, 2004
  • Ballerina, (stretching left), 2000

Quotes

  • "My work life makes much less sense now than 20 years ago. It's Humpty-Dumpty-like in a way; I can't put the pieces back together."
  • "I trust my work. It's a collaboration with the material, and when it's viewed, it's a collaboration with the world."
  • "If you stick to your work it will take care of you somehow."
  • "Some people think or expect that you should make the same kinds of art forever because it creates a convenient narrative... I want my work to embody my inherent contradictions."
  • "The hardest thing is remembering that you have some complicity in the things that happen to you in your life."

Publications

  • Kiki Smith - by Helaine Posner, David Frankel, Kiki Smith, Bulfinch Press; 1st ed edition (October 1998)
  • Kiki Smith: Prints, Books and Things - by Kiki Smith, Wendy Weitman, Museum of Modern Art (August 2003)
  • Kiki Smith: A Gathering, 1980-2005 - by Siri Engberg, Linda Nochlin, Marina Warner, Walker Art Center (January 1, 2006)

Quick Facts

  • Kiki Smith is an American artist classified as a feminist artist.
  • Her Body Art is imbued with political significance, undermining the traditional erotic representations of women by male artists, and often exposes the inner biological systems of females as a metaphor for hidden social issues.
  • She is best known for her sculptures; however, she creates pieces in a variety of media. Her print collection is particularly extensive and began in the 1980s
  • Mary Magdelene (1994), a sculpture made of silicon bronze and forged steel, features a woman's nude body in an untraditional way: her whole body is flayed, skin removed to show bare muscle tissue.

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 Kiki Smith

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