Monday, February 5, 2007

Having Fun with Kiki Smith

Entirely unfamiliar with her work, I went to see the Kiki Smith retrospective at the Whitney. Some of the work feels like it's drawn from a fairy tale about a gloomy world populated by "creatures." Other work pulses with emotion, all the while feeling somewhat narrative, or literary, like illustrations. And to me, this was negative. My favorite piece was a large black paper piece with printed stars, reminiscent of flags. It was delicate and metaphorical, without being heavy-handed.

What struck me was the diversity of her media and endeavors. I'm accustomed to seeing very nuanced development and focused themes in an artist. She almost felt all over the place. But not scattered, instead full. This was liberating for me. It showed me that it's possible as an artist to engage in multiple themes, and not appear confusing. As viewers, we follow.

I went with another artist who noted that she clearly was having fun making her work. And it's true, while her subjects are certainly grim, you sense that she plays with her materials, with imagery, that she indulges in her visions and displays. Have fun making art? I'll have to think about that.

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