Kiki Smith: Prints, Books, and Things

MoMA Audio: Special Exhibitions

Kiki Smith. Untitled (Dress). 1985-86

Screenprinted rayon dress
43 1/2 x 20" (110.5 x 50.8 cm)
Collection of the artist, New York Audio courtesy of Acoustiguide

NARRATOR: Screen-print is a very direct, hands-on medium that does not require a press or other elaborate equipment. One of Smith’s early screen-prints is this dress, which she printed in 1985 after a trip to Mexico for Day of the Dead celebrations. During the Day of the Dead, skeleton images are everywhere. While in Mexico, Smith came across posters on anatomy that she later transferred onto this Untitled Dress. And her interest in anatomy goes even deeper. In fact, she took a course to train to be an Emergency Medical Technician that same year.

Kiki Smith has said that she likes the democratic and empowering nature of printmaking. Since you can make more than one print of the same image – the technique appealed to Smith’s early interest in making art accessible to a broad audience.

She has used the process on fabric, as well as paper, and this dress is just one type of wearable art the artist has created.

KIKI SMITH: It was an inexpensive way to make something that people could have, that could have information on it, but that also could be part of one's pleasure, dressing pleasure, and also making a kind of artwork that's accessible.

NARRATOR: In the 1980s, Kiki Smith also printed scarves and t-shirts that she sold inexpensively in stores or gave away, bypassing the gallery system. This reflects her fascination with the wide variety of printed forms: taking her inspiration from things as diverse as Medieval manuscripts and Mexican political posters.

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