KIKI SMITH: BEYOND THE HORIZON
April 2018 – October 2018
Michael Weinstein Gallery. Historic Sanctuary & Women’s Balcony
When the sun dips below the horizon, “that’s when we have access to the stars.”
– Kiki Smith
Stars have been an important image for artist Kiki Smith, nowhere more so than at the Museum at Eldridge Street. She first visited the Museum in 2008 when she was invited to create a design for the rose window above the ark in the synagogue’s main sanctuary. The stars that cover the walls and ceiling there became the inspiration for her successful proposal, a collaboration with architect Deborah Gans.
Returning to Eldridge Street in 2018 for a one-person exhibition, Kiki Smith selected work to fill the building, reacting to and working with the space, its colors and decorative elements, including all those stars.
Wall-mounted work in the Michael Weinstein Gallery included Blue Moon II (2011), a large piece accompanied by small stars; Bird I (2011), a gliding golden bird; and works depicting the artist’s hand holding evocations of earth, sea and sky. The exhibition continued with photographs that documented the design, fabrication and installation of the synagogue’s east window, designed by Smith and Gans, and added to the Museum’s historic site in 2010.
Upstairs in the sanctuary, Kiki Smith placed dozens of small painted plywood works, all from several recent series. In the Heart in Hand series, hearts are held up like wishes and prayers. Others featured cats in varying poses, birds alighting on raised hands, and women’s faces, perhaps surrogates for the artist. The painted surfaces of these works complemented the brightly colored stained glass of the sanctuary, just a Kiki Smith intended by placing them along the sanctuary’s side walls.
In the balcony, her work Homecoming was suspended high above the floor. It evoked a time, decades ago, when the synagogue was in decline and birds flew in through holes in the roof to find a once-glorious place in complete disarray. It was accompanied by two other works related works, Welcome and Present.