Kiki Smith: I am a Wanderer
Modern Art, Oxford. 28 September 2019 - 19 January 2020
Kiki Smith (b.1954, Nuremberg, Germany, lives and works in New York) has made work over four decades in a variety of media that explores political, social, philosophical and spiritual aspects of human nature. This exhibition focuses on three areas of her artistic practice: Jacquard tapestries, small sculptures and photographs of sculpture, and prints.
The twelve large tapestries in the Upper Gallery were made between 2012 and 2015 and were inspired by the natural world and cosmology. They evoke Smith's visual universe of sky, moon and stars, wildlife and beasts, and woman as visionary seer. The artist first made cartoons using her own lithographs and drawings on Nepalese paper, which were cut up and collaged into compositions. The cartoons were then scanned to enable adjustments of image and colour and the tapestries, woven in Belgium on a double-headed Jacquard loom, were made on the same scale as her original printed and collaged compositions.
The Middle Galleries contain small sculptures and photographs. A "cabinet of curiosities" displays a collection of hybrid creatures, human and animal, and made in many different materials from bronze and plaster to glass, papier mache, silver and gold leaf. The photographs are either of a finished sculpture, but often interrogated from an odd perspective, or are a documentation of a work in progress.
The final gallery presents prints, produced by the artist over 30 years, and selected by her. Kiki Smith says of printmaking that "it has a technical aspect to it, and also endless amounts of freedom". She is equally interested in the mechanical properties of prints and the collaboration it takes to produce them: "I like that your mark is distanced, it gives you something that your own hand can't, even though it comes from your hand".
Kiki Smith often transforms the imagery generated through her printmaking into sculpture or other forms. her practice as a whole is structured by this enlarging and transferring of process across media.
This exhibition has space to display only a tiny fraction of this artist's huge and diverse body of work but what is shown here is curated sensitively by Petra Giloy-Hirtz and is well worth a visit. https://www.modernartoxford.org.uk/