Just In: Kiki Smith’s Banshee Pearls
“My suffering is that I see there are these really great forms. They are holy in a way, like they have this really incredible power about them. And all I can do is recognize it.” -Kiki Smith
Through her fearless approach to material and process, Kiki Smith has contributed a body of work that spans four decades, pushing the boundaries of the social, sexual and political aspects of human nature. The human body, internal and external functions, and the beautiful and the grotesque are of unrelenting fascination to Smith, steadily fueling her expansive practice. There is no linear trajectory within Smith’s ouevre; instead she traverses a variety of mediums and materials, driven by instinct rather than conscious ambition.
Notice everything and fear nothing.1 Smith eagerly engages with the macabre; she is able to translate disturbing, grotesque themes through her manipulation of photo-mechanical means and non-traditional materials resulting in work that challenges our definition of beauty. Importantly, this is not delivered through a didactic narrative but rather one rooted in a sincere interest in presenting a non-hierarchical interpretation of content.
I always think the whole history of the world is in your body.2 This interest of looking inwards, of self-reflection and transparency, is evident in Smith’s 1991 lithographic work Banshee Pearls. Each of the twelve prints in this intensely personal photographic diary, which includes several distorted views of Smith’s own face, engages with Smith’s total acceptance and ownership of her vulnerability and openness. The title Banshee Pearls refers to ancient female spirits, the banshees of Gaelic folklore whose high-pitched wails proclaim a death in the family.3 They are messengers of the ultimate finality and connect with traditions rooted in mythic ritual. Smith embodies the idea of herself as a symbol of death through the creation of these altered and recombined images. In the absence of hierarchy is the humble fact of our mortality and the beauty in understanding what connects us, physically and spiritually.
Banshee Pearls, to be offered in our upcoming July 30 – August 9, 2020 Modern Art & Design Timed Online Only Auction, lifts the veil to reveal Smith’s deeply personal channeling of universal concerns, constraints, and mythologies. A unified series of idiomatic self-portraits, the work reflects far more than a sum of photographs — it is fearless.
Lithographs with aluminum-leaf appliqué on 12 sheets of Torinoko paper mounted to canvas
#24 of 51
Published and printed by Universal Limited Art Editions, West Islip
One sheet signed and dated with edition in graphite along bottom edge; each retains ULAE blind stamp lower left
Overall: 68″ x 121.25″; Each sheet approximately: 22.5″ x 30.5″
July 30 – August 9, 2020 Modern Art & Design Timed Online Only Auction