Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Kiki Smith and Her Drawings

Kiki Smith arrived on the major art scene in the nineteen nineties with an exhibition at MoMA and became an immediate star. She is richly deserving of her following and her works are of a nature that is striking, compelling and thought provoking. Kiki works in many mediums and is most famous for her sculptor. It darts and dives, hangs from ceilings, attaches to walls and sometimes is disjointed and scattered across the floor. This all from what is largely the female form, plaster casts taken from her own body. Her work is feminine in theme and content but she is not a feminist of the traditional definition.  Her work is far too outreaching to be limited to a genre, too immense to be bracketed in terms. She is possessed of a marvelous, mind and creative spirit. Her work is adventurous and lively; a world treasure.

Kiki comes from one of the most artistically creative families in the country. The only other major American family that might be more artistic would be the Wyeths. The two families’ approaches to art are very dissimilar but they both are completely saturated with the bug. Kiki’s father; Tony Smith was a celebrated for his minimalist sculptures. Her mother was an actress and opera singer.

Her sisters; Seton and Beatrice, photography and theatre were their interests respectively. Beatrice died young but Kiki and Seton continue to work and support each other. The girls didn’t attend school and really had little other career choice but fortunately were gifted and internally inclined for the arts.  

The mind, body and spirit were central elements to Kiki’s original pieces. She continues to grow as an artist and her works including her sculpture have become more narrative in nature. Myth, folk and fairy tales have become central to many of her new works. These are especially evident in her graphics and drawings. “Red Riding Hood” and “Alice in Wonderland” are among her inspirations. At times she creates what could well be and truly are beautiful illustrations. These coupled with unique works that turn the myths inside out, upside down with a complete interchanging of metaphor. Her works and vision is totally original and a leap forward into unexpected places.

There is an unrefined quality and freedom to the drawings of Kiki Smith that is reminiscent of earlier artists like Marc Chagall and the more contemporary Leon Golub. Her lacking of a true academic technique adds to the charm and whimsy of her concepts in a way a more serious and structured style would only serve to distract. The over-all impact of the pieces is dominant in an illuminated text manner. Kiki is one of the most unrestrained artists working today and there is a timeless quality to everything she touches. The mystique and allure of Kiki Smith will only grow given time.

“It's really special when you share history with people and are in the same field. We come from a background where it's completely natural for someone to devote their life to a vision. It's an unsaid vision, one that's constantly moving and falling apart, and sometimes there are really still periods. Artists live in unknown spaces and give themselves over to following something unknown. I see that in Seton's work and in mine.”

Kiki Smith


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