Before it´s too late (just one more week), I absolutely had to go see the exhibition of Kiki Smith´s large size canvases and other works at the Lower Belvedere museum. The Belvedere is showing about sixty works of this American artist´s multi-facetted oevre in the exhibition Processions , including sculptures, large tapestries, and objects and canvases made from many different materials.
The exhibition title Processions derives from an idea that came to Kiki Smith when thinking about how processions move down roads. In the museum space the visitor also moves in a linear way from room to room, and you can also move from one time-period to another. It also symbolizes the forward movement of Smith´s own oevre. In her more recent work, she has a focus on nature, birds and other animals, and the relationship of humans to it, which of course thematically is right up my alley.
“Nature is the most fascinating thing that is around us. … It´s all a miracle, and certainly an endangered miracle, but it´s a miracle to behold, to see all these animals.”
(Kiki Smith about Nature, in a video clip viewable on Belvedere website)
In her art, several motifs are repeated time and again, in different materials and shapes. Birds, wolves, stars, the human body or parts of it. She talks about having a “vocabulary” of forms that she can use repeatedly in different ways, using different materials and colours.
Her work is extremely diverse where form is concerned, but what comes through in all of it is her concern with earth and our (her) relationship with it.
Several of Kiki Smith´s sculptures of human bodies and body parts are inspired by her reading Gray´s Anatomy (the illustrated 19th century textbook, not the TV series).
In our bodies we experience being on Earth, and it is how we recognize the form of others, she says in an interview – our bodies are our biggest commonality with other humans. But in her early work of the 1980s her focus on bodies was also a response to the AIDS crisis and the death of her own sister from the disease. It prompted her to explore mortality and the physicality of the human body in her work.
You can look at the slide-show below for a few more photos from the exhibition (works only on some devices).
The exhibition ends on 15 September, so if I inspired you to go see it, you´d better be quick about it. You can also watch some short video clips of Kiki Smith talking about her art on the website of the Belvedere. In 2012, the American public broadcasting station PBS produced a profile of Kiki Smith, which is still online for your watching pleasure.