In the 1980s there was a return to figurative imagery in American art. After a period dominated by abstraction and conceptual art, younger artists began to focus on the body. Artists like Jean-Michel Basquiat, Julian Schnabel and David Salle became superstars, celebrated for their Neo-Expressionist portraits. Into this world came Kiki Smith, an artist whose art explored the female body in its most intimate functions, its organs, membranes and fluids, as a way of understanding the female psyche in post-war America.
Smith was born into an artistic family. Her mother, Jane Lawrence Smith, was an opera singer and actor, and her father was the American minimalist sculptor, Tony Smith. They lived in New Jersey in a large Victorian brownstone that had once belonged to her great-grandmother. She traces her fascination with mortality and the body to the atmosphere of this house, surrounded by the dead belongings of her ancestors. She studied at Hartford Art School before settling in New York in 1979 where she joined Collaborative Projects Inc, an artists’ collective that investigated various forms of art presentation in unconventional venues.
By the 1980s Smith was creating artworks in a variety of mediums, from paper and glass to cast bronze, using anatomy as a starting point for an exploration of the cultural, political and social meanings connected to the human body. It was a particularly poignant subject during the AIDS crisis, and she confronted the issue head on with works such as Untitled (1986), which comprised 12 jugs with the names of different secretions generated by the body engraved on them. Her most unsettling sculptures came in the 1990s when she adopted the life-size human figure as her subject. Pee Body (1992), for example, depicted a nude female figure in wax crouched on the floor relieving herself, urine trailing behind in the form of yellow beads.
In 2006 Smith was recognised by Time magazine as one of the Time 100: The People Who Shape Our World.
When you save this search to your interests, Christie's will notify you by email when an upcoming sale includes items that match this interest.
You can save as many interests as you like, and you can edit, delete, or change your notification settings at any time.