Discover the inspiration and processes of two of the most influential artists of their times
From January 22 to April 24, 2016 the National Gallery of Canada (NGC) presents Kiki Smith and Tony Smith, as part of its program Masterpiece in Focus. Presenting together for the first time in Canada Tony Smith’s Black Box, 1962–1967, and Kiki Smith’s Born, 2002, the exhibition gives attention to two exceptional sculptures from the national collection and allows for a deeper exploration into the working methods, inspiration and processes of two of the most influential artists of their times.
Simultaneously, these works offer equally compelling meditations on presence, embodiment and consciousness. In addition, this pairing connects the objective with the subjective, formalism with mythology, and presents divergent takes on materiality, on art historical philosophy, and on the role of the artist in society.
The exhibition also includes two documentary films featuring Kiki Smith and Tony Smith, respectively.
About the artists
American artists Kiki Smith (b. 1954) and her father Tony Smith (1912–1980) represent the spirit of their respective generations. Known as an originator of Minimalism, Tony is recognized most for his large-scale geometric works in steel, while Kiki has garnered international acclaim for her sculptures, prints and drawings, which focus on narrative, the human condition and the natural world.
Kiki Smith – Through her work, the internationally renowned artist Kiki Smith (b. 1954) considers the human condition, its strengths and its frailties, as well as the complex relationship between people, nature and spirituality. She is perhaps most well-known for her sculptures, prints, and drawings that focus on the human body – progressing over time from explorations of its inside through the depiction of various organs, fluids and skeletal structures to the narrative capacities of the human form, often in relation to mythological female figure. Smith has also focused variously on imagery related to the cosmos – planets, stars and other celestial forms – as a way of further investigating the connective web that links emotion, psychology, the carnal and the incorporeal. Smith has been honoured with numerous awards over her three-decade long career, most recently, the U.S. State Department Medal of Arts given by Hillary Clinton (2012), Theo Westenberger Women of Excellence Award (2010); Nelson A. Rockefeller Award, Purchase College School of the Arts (2010); Women in the Arts Award, Brooklyn Museum (2009) and the 50th Edward MacDowell Medal (2009), among many others. Smith was elected a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, New York in 2005. In 2006 TIME Magazine named her one of the “TIME 100: The People Who Shape Our World.” She has been represented by Pace Gallery, New York, since 1994.
In a recent interview with NGC magazine, Kiki Smith said: “What is more crucial than other issues is our relationship as people to nature, and how we can see our continuance. (…) That’s the essential crux of the matter. My work is ¾ not in any literal way ¾ just trying to explore or look at what those connections mean. Certainly the piece Born doesn’t particularly make any sense. It’s not like you can say “This is about this.” It means ‘born from nature.’ (…) I’m just following my intuition.”
Tony Smith – Closely associated with abstract expressionist painters, Tony Smith (1912-1980) studied at the New Bauhaus in Chicago in the late 1930s and worked as a successful architect, including for Frank Lloyd Wright, throughout the 1940s and 1950s. Following a car accident in 1961, Smith gave up architecture and turned to sculpture: Black Box was one of his first metal work. As the critic Lucy Lippard observed in 1967, this work almost appears “readymade,” a “five-fold enlargement of a wooden card-file noticed on a friend’s desk.” Smith, somewhat enigmatically, suggested of his works in 1966, “I don’t think of them as sculpture, but as presences of a sort.”
His works has been shown in a major retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art, New York (1998), as well as in Europe, by IVAM in Valencia, Spain (2002), and at the Menil Collection, Houston (2010). Smith’s 100th birthday was celebrated by institutions around the world with special exhibitions. Tony Smith’s work is included in international collections such as the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa; the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Menil Collection, Houston; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebaek, Denmark; and the Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterloo, Netherlands.
NGC Associate Curator of Contemporary Art, Rhiannon Vogl, is the curator of Kiki Smith and Tony Smith.
Meet the Experts
Saturday, January 23, 2016 at noon – Tony Smith and Kiki Smith may be father and daughter, but their work embodies each artist’s own personal vision. Members of the public are invited to join Rhiannon Vogl, Associate Curator of Contemporary Art, and Adam Welch, Associate Curator of Modern Canadian Art, for a fascinating look at the seminal sculptures featured in the Masterpiece in Focus exhibition Kiki Smith and Tony Smith. Free with Gallery admission. In Gallery C218. In English with a bilingual question period.
NGCmagazine.ca, the National Gallery of Canada’s online magazine, is a frequently updated source of information on the Canadian art world and events at the National Gallery of Canada. Correspondents from across the country provide engaging and exclusive content on historical and contemporary art in Canada. This online magazine also includes interviews with artists. Soon to be published: an article entitled The Sculpted Presence of Kiki Smith and Tony Smith.
Tickets: $12 (adults); $10 (seniors and full-time students); $6 (youth: 12-19); $24 (families: two adults and three youth). Admission is free for children under the age of 12 and for Members. Includes admission to the NGC Collection. Hours The NGC is open Tuesday to Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Thursdays until 8 p.m. Closed Mondays. For more information call 613-990-1985 or 1-800-319-ARTS.
About the National Gallery of Canada
The National Gallery of Canada is home to the most important collections of historical and contemporary Canadian art. The Gallery also maintains Canada's premier collection of European Art from the 14th to the 21st century, as well as important works of American, Asian and Indigenous Art and renowned international collections of prints, drawings and photographs. In 2015, the National Gallery of Canada established the Canadian Photography Institute, a global multidisciplinary research center dedicated to the history, evolution and future of photography. Created in 1880, the National Gallery of Canada has played a key role in Canadian culture for well over a century. Among its principal missions is to increase access to excellent works of art for all Canadians. For more information, visit gallery.ca and follow us on Twitter @gallerydotca.
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National Gallery of Canada