Description: Untitled (Roses), 1993-1994 Aluminum. 64 x 39 x 22 in. (163.8 x 99 x 55.9 cm).
Artist or Maker: KIKI SMITH
Exhibited: The University of California at Santa Barbara Art Museum, Kiki Smith, March 5 – April 17, 1994; Santa Fe, Laura Carpenter Fine Art, Kiki Smith, September 3 - October 15, 1994; Syracuse, Everson Museum, Selections from a Private Collection, April 12 – September 29, 1996; Katonah Museum of Art, Behind Closed Doors, May 27 – July 11, 2004; Peekskill, HudsonValley Center for Contemporary Art, Figure it Out, May 2005 – April 2006; NewYork, Zwirner &Wirth, Sculpture from a Private Collection, September 14 – October 14, 2006
Literature: “Kiki Smith,” Albuquerque Journal, September 8, 1994, p. E16 (illustrated); Everson Museum, ed. The Everson Museum Bulletin, Syracuse, 1996, cover (illustrated).
Provenance: Laura Carpenter Fine Art, Santa Fe
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The present lot Untitled (Roses) represents Kiki Smith’s move in the early 1990s to a spiritual and mythological interpretation of the female form. Previously depicting figures that showed no remorse for a public display of bodily function, her early sculptures were extremely introspective personalities in public settings. Smith’s figurative works, executed in the mid 1990s, as exemplified by the current lot, serve to liberate the female figure – rescuing her from the patriarchal grasp held by previous handlers of her form.
Kiki Smith was born into a family of artists. Originally pursuing studies as an industrial cook, Smith ended up, she claims, by default, an artist at the age of twenty-four. Her father, Minimalist sculptorTony Smith involved his children in his work.The organic existence in space of geometric shapes, created by her father, play a role in Kiki Smith’s work – although works of the two artists possess extremely different visual vocabularies. To this day, Smith believes she must never create abstract forms as this was the domain of her father.
The discourse of the oeuvre of Kiki Smith creates a narrative of the myths of humanity. Ranging from savior of deconstruction to messenger of spirituality – Smith translates her tale into varying mediums appropriate to the works at hand. The death of her father,Tony, spurred creativity and shaped the work of his daughter through his lack of physical presence. Smith began representing specific parts of the body in her works – evidenced by her 1983 Hand in Jar sculpture. By the mid 1980s Smith found an emotional reaction to the dissembled figures represented in Cubism, especially those of Picasso.The artist felt it her duty to reassemble the figure for the purpose of progression of contemporary art. Smith became somewhat of a “mad-scientist” artist – combining body parts to create Frankenstein-like monsters. In 1985, the artist and her sister, Beatrice, completed an emergency medical technician course. Smith desired to understand the inner workings of the body and further explore the physical body she personally occupies.The artist represented the “unbounded body, the permeable body that leaks and dissolves” (H. Posner, Kiki Smith, Boston, 1998, p. 20).
The current lot, Untitled (Roses), exemplifies Kiki Smith’s growing interest in the religious interpretation of female. Smith considers religion as a fundamental aspect to her art making. In such reference, she quotes, “One of the things about Catholicism is, it’s a religion that’s about making things physical, about taking emotional and spiritual ideas and making them physical.” Smith also writes, “Catholicism uses a body model or image to address the spiritual condition” (Ibid, p. 22). Kiki Smith reinterprets the Virgin Mary as a woman of strength – sculptures in the series depict accompanying female figures of divinity and mythology. In the culmination of her journey from the profane to the sacred, Smith focused on the Virgin Mary, whose iconic stance of downward gaze, outstretched arms and upturned palms are visible in the present lot.The Virgin Mary represented to Smith the culmination of acceptance and strength, both which were ideals inherent to Smith’s reclaiming of the female form. Kiki Smith writes in an interview with David Frankel,
I was watching a black preacher on TV who said, ‘You have to know what you want in life; you have to have a vision. Ask yourself what you want.’ I decided I wanted to make images that would be useful and positive in daily life. I thought of female images that I liked, female superheroes. One was the Virgin Mary. But I thought, If you make a Catholic show it’ll just show you’re crazy, so in my last show with Joe Fawbush, I made the Vrigin with inlaid silver veins and also another version of Nuit, with the stars and the legs. And behind the Virgin I made hammered gold and silver flowers as stars. So it’s like going out of the body and into nature. All these mythologies transmute from one culture to the next anyway: the Virgin takes a lot of her imagery from Isis and Nuit – her starry cloak, like the universe. Or she stands on the moon, like Diana. Ibid, p. 40.