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Artist

Kiki Smith (1954-)

Title

Witness

Date

1994

Medium

Phosphorus bronze and white bronze

Dimensions

Dimensions variable

Edition information

Unique in a series of 4 and 1 AP

Credit line

Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Gift of The American Contemporary Art Foundation, Leonard A. Lauder, President

Accession number

2006.120a-d

Object Label

Originally titled Four Hands and Eyes, Kiki Smith’s sculpture Witness consists of four bronze hands, placed side by side in a line, each cradling a single eye in its cupped palm. The artist, however, has stripped each eye of its external structure, choosing only to depict the muscles working underneath the surface. By reducing the human body to these two forms, Smith emphasizes the function of each, while simultaneously creating a new association between these traditionally disparate body parts. These four similar but irregular objects also evoke the rhythms and repetitions found throughout the body—its heartbeat, molecular structure, and symmetry. By recontextualizing basic forms of the human body, Smith hopes to compel her viewers to examine their own bodies in new and unexpected ways, thus offering a unique and participatory experience with her work. The artist’s decision to change the title to Witness upon its entry into the Whitney’s collection amplifies the sculpture’s sense of ambiguity, and may further reflect her desire to activate the relationship between her work and its audience. Eager to discover who is the witness, or indeed, what is being witnessed, the viewer is encouraged to more closely examine Smith’s unusual juxtaposition of human forms.

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