The presentation at Modern Art Oxford in 2019 is the first solo museum exhibition of the artist’s work in the United Kingdom for almost twenty-five years (since Kiki Smith at the Whitechapel Gallery, London in 1995). It provides an amazing insight into the spectrum of the artist’s diverse practice, tracing its development through her career from the beginnings in the 1980s to the present day. The concept of the exhibition and the selection of works (generated in close collaboration with the artist) refer to the specific historic and phantasmagorical character of Oxford and its literary, philosophical and scientific research cultures. It is more than coincidental that the collecting tradition represented in Oxford by the overwhelming abundance of archaeological and ethnographic objects assembled from across the world and across all time periods embraces diversity and is evident of humankind in all its difference. The interdisciplinary and collaborative spirit of Smith’s oeuvre across the rich variety of media makes this exhibition a congenial counterpart for the arts and science context of Oxford’s renowned research culture. The political urgency of the artist’s work is as well contextualised by Modern Art Oxford’s longstanding commitment to artists’ political self- expression and solidarity with marginalised communities and cultures.
There is an abundance in Kiki Smith’s choice of materials. The exhibition emphasises her material experimentation, from bronze, plaster, glass, and porcelain to paper, pigment, aluminium, latex, feathers, and beeswax amongst countless others – demonstrating her constant curiosity and desire for discoveries. A major focus of the exhibition has been placed on three distinctive areas of Kiki Smith’s work: the small sculptures, a selection from her printmaking oeuvre, and the Jacquard tapestries.