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Kiki Smith

Peters Projects
1011 Paseo de Peralta
May 13, 2016–July 30, 2016

Kiki Smith, Sojourn, 2015, jacquard tapestry, 116 x 76''.

In a talk she gave at the gallery on May 14, Kiki Smith cited the medieval French Apocalypse Tapestry and the weavings of the “hippie movement” as examples of the long tradition to which the eleven tapestries in this show belong. “Woven Tales” displays a mythical world wherein human and animal forms entwine with natural phenomena: A woman floats in the heavens among the stars; a man sinks below the earth amid tree roots, fossils, and ants. Smith made each tapestry in collaboration with Magnolia Editions, a studio that specializes in producing textiles with contemporary artists. To produce these works, a computer scanned Smith’s large mixed-media collages to scale (each tapestry is more than nine feet tall) and then a digitally programmed jacquard loom wove a draft of each composition. Some tapestries underwent a dozen or more iterations before Smith declared the works finished. As she became more adept at the process, her designs became more delicate and subtle. For instance, Earth, 2012, is a rather stiffly framed composition with bright and contrasting colors, while Sojourn, 2015, features a carefully rendered depth of field and soft, naturalistic colors.

Ultimately, each tapestry is otherworldly in its own way: A pair of eagles flies across a violent lightning storm; rays of light (or energy) connect a female form to a congregation of animals; and human eyes emerge from tree trunks as the viewer takes time to look closely. Using a marriage of digital and analog techniques, Smith has created a body of work that follows but modernizes the tradition of textile production—a practice that spans almost the entire history of humanity.

Chelsea Weathers