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Kiki Smith (1954-)
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Gift of The American Contemporary Art Foundation, Leonard A. Lauder, President
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© artist or artist’s estate
In the early 1990s, the natural world—and the animal kingdom in particular—began to appear in Kiki Smith’s work. Smith made her first sculpture incorporating a bird in 1992, and since then, birds have remained a powerful symbol, evoking traditional associations with the Holy Spirit. Smith, who is interested in examining the ways in which animals are displayed in the museum context, frequently visits the Carnegie Museum of Natural History to look at taxidermied bird specimens. Like the displays that she has studied, Smith's Flock is not a natural gathering of birds but rather a group that has been classified and arranged by human beings. While the birds vary in size, they are ordered in rows that recall the way birds sit on a telephone wire. At the same time, the arrangement transforms the birds into an abstraction, while their mute, lifeless forms instill the work with a haunting sense of vulnerability.