Kiki Smith (b. 1954, Nuremberg, Germany) trained in art-making through her participation in COLAB (Collaborative Projects), a New York-based cooperative that maintained an active membership of over 40 artists in the mid-1970s.
Rather than limit her work to a single medium, Smith embraces drawing, painting, photography, printmaking, sculpture, and multimedia installations. Much of Smith’s photography references her work in sculpture and drawing and synthesizes subjects central to her oeuvre, such as anatomy, the natural world, folklore, mythology, and religion. Best known for creating symbolic and provocative images of the female body, Smith has expanded the boundaries of the figurative tradition. Her objects and drawings, first based on body organs, cellular forms, and the human nervous system, evolved to include animals and domestic objects within a more holistically defined cosmos. Smith’s work accomplishes a feeling of intimacy without sacrificing its universal relevance; life, death, and resurrection are prominent leitmotifs in her work.
Since receiving her first solo exhibition in the early 1980s at the Kitchen, one of New York City’s alternative art spaces, Smith has had more than 80 one-person shows, including “My Nature: Works with Paper by Kiki Smith” at the St. Louis Art Museum (1999-2000), “Kiki Smith: Telling Tales” at the International Center of Photography in New York (2001), and “Kiki Smith: Prints, Books, and Things” at the Museum of Modern Art, New York (2003-04). Her installation “Homespun Tales: a tale of domestic occupation” appeared at the Fondazione Querini Stampalia in Venice from June until November 2005. Smith’s first full-scale retrospective, “Kiki Smith: A Gathering, 1980-2005,” organized by the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, debuts at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (November 2005-January 2006) before traveling to the Walker (February-May 2006), the Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston (July-September 2006), and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (October 2006-January 2007). The show includes approximately 100 objects sorted into thematic groups, with works in bronze, ceramic, glass, paper and plaster, as well as drawings, installations, photographs and prints. Smith’s work is also frequently featured in group shows around the world, the 1993 Venice Biennale (Aperto section) and the Whitney Museum of American Art’s Biennial (1991, 1993, 2002) among them.
Smith is the recipient of numerous awards, including, most recently, the Skowhegan Medal for Sculpture (2000), the Rhode Island School of Design Athena Award for Excellence in Printmaking (2005), and fellowship in the American Academy of Arts and Letters, New York (2005).
Smith’s work can be found in over 35 international museum collections, such as the Art Institute of Chicago; the Cleveland Museum of Art; the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; the High Museum of Art, Atlanta; the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Moderna Museet, Stockholm; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York; the Tate Modern, London; the Victoria and Albert Museum, London; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.
Selected monographs of Smith’s work include Kiki Smith (1990); Fountainhead (1991); Kiki Smith: Silent Work (1992); Kiki Smith: Unfolding the Body (1992); Kiki Smith: Sojourn in Santa Barbara (1995); Paradise Cage: Kiki Smith and Coop Himmelblau (1996); Kiki Smith: Convergence (1997); Kiki Smith: All Creatures Great and Small (1998); My Nature: Works with Paper by Kiki Smith (1999); Kiki Smith: Telling Tales (2001); Kiki Smith: Prints, Books & Things (2003); and Kiki Smith: Homespun Tales (2005).
Smith lives and works in New York City.