Critics’ Picks

Kiki Smith, Fortune, 2014, 
cotton jacquard tapestry, hand painting, 
116“ x 78”.

New York

Kiki Smith

Pace | 510 West 25th Street
510 West 25th Street
February 28–March 29

“Wonder,” the title of Kiki Smith’s latest New York exhibition, suitably describes both the excitement in first encountering Smith’s garden of earthly delights and an astonished curiosity at their craft-intensive processes. Smith’s output has always been an ascension up the ladder of her own cosmology, and this show evinces how singular her references are.

This new body of work, four years in the making, once again employs her alphabet of female nudes, plants, and animals. However, these motifs are emboldened by their rendering in a rich catholicity of mediums, which in this display count cast bronze, stained glass, fine silver, Jacquard woven tapestries, and ink-jet prints among them. If her Brooklyn Museum show in 2010 was a peek into a latticed, domestic realm, then this show opens the doors to nature rushing in at a suitably dwarfing scale, such as in the enormous stainless-steel sculpture Hoarfrost with Rabbit, 2014. Its perpendicular sheets, modeled after the phenomenon of cyclically crystalizing water vapor, occupy the galley’s center and include a camouflaged steel rabbit perched atop one angular slab. The gentility of its gait and features belie the fierce weight of its material, a generative metaphor for strength in vulnerability.

Three nearly ten-foot-long tapestries, all 2014, make the grandest gesture in the exhibition. Portraying almost Edenic scenes of a nude girl and a fawn, as in Congregation, or spiderwebs flecked with gold and silver leaf among shooting plants in Spinners, the medium is dusted off and made contemporary by virtue of the vibrantly abstract, cut-up collage borders. Translated into a crisply precise (and a forerunner of digital technology) Jacquard weave, they reflect the heterogeneous textures of Smith’s drawings and set these extraordinary works apart from any mere nostalgia or worship of antiquated forms.