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Kiki Smith (B. 1954)
Kiki Smith (B. 1954)

Basin

Details
Kiki Smith (B. 1954)
Basin
plaster
13 x 20 x 42in. (33 x 52 x 107cm.)
Executed in 1990
Literature
G. Williams, 'Young Americans - New American Art at the Saatchi Gallery' exhibition review, Art Monthly, May 1996, pp.27-28.
'International Flash Art', vol. XXIX, no. 188, May-June 1996, p.108 (illustrated).
Exhibited
Massachusetts, Williams College Museum of Art, 'Kiki Smith', July-Nov. 1992 (illustrated in the catalogue, p.44). This exhibition travelled to Ohio, Wexner Center for the Arts, Jan- March 1993.
London, The Saatchi Gallery, 'Young Americans, New American Art in the Saatchi Collection', Jan.-May 1996 (illustrated in the catalogue in colour).

Lot Essay

The human body is Kiki Smith's primary subject matter. As she puts it "I think I chose the body as a subject, not consciously, but because it is the one form that we all share; it's something that everybody has their own authentic experience with." ('Kiki Smith', The Hague 1990, p.132). Kiki Smith's approach to the human body is not scientific, but rather her interest is founded on her own personal observation and intimate experiences which often become almost embarrasing to the viewer. It is an existential study of the body; "an art that is anti-intellectual and visceral. Unlike a number of artists of her generation who have taken a detached stance towards the self, Smith goes straight to the core of the being. Representations of flayed bodies, internal organs, and secretions form the nucleus of her work. Sometimes raw, these images are a powerful impetus for self-examination; they force one to explore the relationship between the body and the self, how this relationship is perceived in a given culture, and how social conventions affect our perceptions of ourselves and others." (ibid pp.141-142).

"Basin" 1990, a lifesize plaster cast of the artist's body in a foetal position, which refers specifically to a woman's ability to generate life. The plaster functions as a womb which although it protects the foetus is itself fragile. According to Paolo Colombo, the womb is also a potent political image for Smith since it is the female symbol of the physiological difference between man and woman. It symbolizes the ongoing struggle for women's reproductive rights and stands as a focal point in the feminist debate on the female reproductive system as a form of repression in a patriachal society.
In using the cast to mimic the womb and as a "basin" or container of life, Smith makes use of her own body to raise important political questions about gender and sexuality.
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