Kiki Smith: Prints, Books, and Things

Etching and aquatint on handmade Japanese paper  
 Composition: 23 7/16 x 49 1/4" (59.6 x 125.1 cm)  
 Sheet: 41 13/16 x 6' 5 1/16" (106.2 cm x 195.8 cm)  
 Publisher and Printer: Universal Limited Art Editions, West Islip, New York  
 Edition: 33  
 The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Emily Fisher Landau, 1993  
 © Kiki Smith

Kiki Smith. Sueño. 1992

Etching and aquatint, composition: 23 7/16 x 49 1/4" (59.6 x 125.1 cm); sheet: 41 13/16 x 6' 5 1/16" (106 x 195.8 cm). Gift of Emily Fisher Landau. © 2018 Kiki Smith

NARRATOR: Smith has often portrayed the human form in sculpture. Here, in Sueño, from 1992 is a monumental example of how Smith has brought that same focus to print-making; in this case, etching. In this printing technique, a copper or zinc plate holds the ink, which is then transferred to paper to produce the image.

The artist began knowing that she wanted the image to be life sized, exceptionally large for an etching.

KIKI SMITH: I just had them trace me. You know, I just wanted to make a body, and show the muscle structure, so I just climbed on the plate and lay down and they just traced me. I mean, because it's just easier than making up the scale, it's easier just to use what you already have available. I didn't know how difficult it is to make an etching at the time. I had made prints that large, you know, from making silkscreen so at the time it was very important for me to do everything life-size.

NARRATOR: Smith then added the sharp scratches of musculature to her outline. Curator Wendy Weitman has described the effect of this skinless figure in its fetal position as both frightening and vulnerable.

WENDY WEITMAN: She didn't come with a lot of preconceived ideas about how to make an etching. It was quite refreshing in a way that she attacked these enormous plates with a fresh kind of mark making. It was that kind of physicality that I think comes from being a sculptor and very comfortable working in three dimensions.

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