Patti Smith

Robert Miller Gallery

Jesus died for somebody’s sins but not mine”—it’s the unforgettable first line of “Gloria,” the song that opens Patti Smith’s debut album, Horses (1975). Smith’s best lyrics and poetry lace lucidity with mania, exuding both streetwise cool and incendiary heat, often in consecutive lines. That iconic, warbled salvo that inaugurates the track presciently captures the dueling impulses of guarded doubt and spiritual fervor that have long framed her work. Smith, nonpareil poet of New York City’s first-wave punk heyday, is the South Jersey–bred daughter of a Jehovah’s Witness mother and a religious skeptic father. Mirroring this conflicted upbringing, her music, writing, and art span the intellectual and spiritual spectrums, from the unruly romanticism of Jean Genet and Arthur Rimbaud to the ritualized themes and ceremony of Christianity.

While Smith is most celebrated for her music and poetry,

to keep reading

Artforum print subscribers have full access to this article. If you are a subscriber, sign in below.

Not registered for Register here.

SUBSCRIBE NOW for only $50 a year—65% off the newsstand price—and get the print magazine plus full online access to this issue and our archive.*

Order the PRINT EDITION of the February 2007 issue for $17 or the ONLINE EDITION for $5.99.

* This rate applies to U.S. domestic subscriptions.