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Artist

Kiki Smith (1954-)

Title

Untitled

Date

1990

Medium

Beeswax and microcrystalline wax figures on metal stands

Dimensions

Overall (Installation): 78 × 71 1/2 × 21 1/4 in. (198.1 × 181.6 × 54 cm)

Credit line

Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Purchase, with funds from the Painting and Sculpture Committee

Accession number

91.13a-d

Object Label

Since the 1980s, much of Kiki Smith’s work has focused on the human body—probing it, distorting it, fragmenting it, and making visible what is usually imperceptible or private. “I use the body because it is our primary vehicle for experiencing our lives,” she has explained. “It’s something everyone shares.” Smith once spent three months training to be an emergency medical technician, studying medical texts and cadavers, and her hand-wrought sculptures convey an obsessive attention to anatomical detail. Untitled is one of Smith’s earliest forays into large-scale sculpture using wax, a medium that would occupy her for years. Two figures, one male and one female, hang limply from adjacent poles; milk drips from the woman’s breasts and semen runs down the man’s legs. Although these are life-giving secretions, both figures appear suspended in a state near death, their heads bowed languidly. Layers of red-tinted wax suggest the permeability and vulnerability of human flesh and internal organs.