Kiki Smith: Prints, Books, and Things

MoMA Audio: Special Exhibitions

Kiki Smith. Destruction of Birds. 1997, Dated 1998

Etching on five sheets of mold-made Hahnemühle paper
Plate (two per sheet): each 18 x 24 (45.7 x 61cm)
Sheet: each 32 1/4 x 48" (81.9 x 121.9 cm)
Publisher: Thirteen Moons, New York
Printer: Harland & Weaver, Inc., New York
Edition: 10
Courtesy the artist and Pace Editions, Inc., New York
©Kiki Smith Audio courtesy of Acoustiguide

NARRATOR: The title of this print, Destruction of the Birds inverts the biblical fifth day, which saw the creation of the birds and fishes. These birds are dead, but somehow infused with mystery. These are more than scientific specimens.

WENDY WEITMAN: She wanted to make a very large print called The Destruction of Birds. And she had the bird specimens the Natural History Museum actually lent her the specimens. And she brought them to the workshop and sketched the dead birds. And made a 20 foot monumental work in which you see a variety of these dead birds sort of syncopated across this horizontal frieze. It's an extremely austere, minimal print.

NARRATOR: Birds are among Smith’s most ubiquitous images from nature.

KIKI SMITH: I suppose in Catholicism, the predominant bird represents the holy ghost, which is the dove. You know where a dove is so traditionally image of a peace bird, or when Noah, they sent out the birds and the birds come back with a branch, they know that they've found land. Historically birds have many different symbolic and metaphoric meanings associated to them.

NARRATOR: Smith has re-used these images in a variety of forms, including sculpture. You can see examples in the case below. It’s a surprising reversal for the sculptor-turned-printmaker: she’s so comfortable by now at printmaking that the prints can inspire sculpture, rather than the other way around.

16 / 17