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Conversation with Kiki Smith

Conversation with Kiki Smith on the occasion of her exhibition at the Fondation Thalie, Inner Bodies.

Inner Bodies brings together a corpus of some thirty works, sculptures, tapestries and ceramics from the 2000s, most of which are being presented for the first time in Brussels. We find the artist’s appetite for representing the materiality of bodies but also cosmogony through cultures. Her work embodies a pantheon of the feminine in forests inhabited by a cosmic bestiary.

Kiki Smith (American, born January 18, 1954) is a German-born sculptor known for her works that deal with bodily themes, abjection, and sexuality. Born into a family of artists—her father was the Minimalist sculptor Tony Smith (American, 1912–1980), and her mother the opera singer Jane Lawrence Smith—she was raised in New Jersey. Smith attended the Hartford Art School in Connecticut before moving to New York City in the 1980s, where she became an active member in the East Village art scene.

Her work received significant attention in 1990 during her exhibition for the Projects Room at the Museum of Modern Art. Although clearly familiar with Minimalism from a young age, her work is aligned more closely with the sculptures of female artists Louise Bourgeois (American/French, 1911–2010) and Eva Hesse (American, 1936–1970); two artists active in the Anti-Form movement, who created objects that defied traditional object-making. Smith’s Body Art sculptures ironically parallel the erotic representations of women in art history, and simultaneously expose constructions of gender and sexuality. Often the biological systems she recalls in her sculptures, including blood, semen, breast milk, and urine in her work, serve as metaphors for the socially constructed nature of identity.