The Joan Miró Foundation
presents Her memory, an exhibition by Kiki Smith organised in collaboration with the Museum Haus Esters in Krefeld and the Kunsthalle in Nuremberg, containing recent work by this American artist. It could actually be considered an “exhibition in progress”, since it has been enlarged at each venue before reaching the Foundation, which is the end of its tour.
Kiki Smith was born in Nuremberg in 1954, into an artistic family: her mother, Jane Lawrence Smith, was an opera singer, and her father was the architect and sculptor Tony Smith. The work of Kiki Smith is characterised by a constant reflection on human existence and on life and death. Her traumatic yet poetic representations of the human body brought her international recognition in the late 1980s. In 2006 and 2007, the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis and the Whitney Museum in New York organised a retrospective exhibition: “Kiki Smith: A Gathering, 1980-2005”, which for her signified the end of a particular period.
Her recent work follows a different path but she continues to explore the poetic possibilities of the broad imaginary and symbolic universe of woman.
Her Memory, the installation now to be seen at the Joan Miró Foundation, has its roots in The first, second and last scenes of mortality by Prudence Punderson, a silk embroidery dating from the time of the American War of Independence. This piece narrates the transition from childhood to death, from the cradle to the grave, of a New England woman in the years after the United States had won its independence – a time that holds a particular fascination for the artist.
In Her Memory Kiki Smith starts the cycle with the already adult woman, and covers a series of experiences that include domestic life, the life of female artists, religiousness, and awareness of death, as seen from the perspective of an independent woman earning her own living. The artist reflects on woman’s life cycle, which corresponds to a certain extent with an artist’s creative cycle: the Annunciation is used as a metaphor for inspiration, followed by a period of exploration, then the achievement of an artistic statement, before moving on to the end of the journey.
Her memory, a unique work of art in itself, is a space for reflection and poetry that continues the characteristic style of Kiki Smith’s recent work, somewhere between naïve and artisan, with numerous iconographic references that the artist appropriates and transforms, such as the representations of the life of the Virgin Mary, more ancient myths such as the sibyl, or modern figures such as the suffragettes of the 1920s.
This journey takes shape with the use of different materials: painting on glass and on verre églomisé; sculptures made of porcelain, plaster, bronze or aluminium; reliefs, prints, collages and drawings; and objects made from papier-mâché or handwoven – all of which portray women’s anonymous creativity throughout the history of the United States.
In this way Kiki Smith creates a network of related spaces with a strong visual impact and a profound poetic charge that will not leave visitors unmoved.
The exhibition catalogue contains articles by Martin Hentschel, Director of the Kunstmuseen in Krefeld, and Estrella de Diego, and is illustrated with photographs of the installation in the Foundation.