Kiki Smith “Path” and Pascale Marthine Tayou “Update!” at Galleria Continua, San Gimignano
Kiki Smith “Path”
Galleria Continua is pleased to host, for the first time, a solo show by American artist Kiki Smith. With over 150 one-person exhibitions around the world, she is a prominent figure in contemporary art.
Kiki Smith’s career is distinguished by constant experimentation. She has used wool, cloth, glass, malleable wax, earthenware, bronze, steel, stone, wood, paper, plaster, plastic resins and organic elements. Her works range from sculpture to drawing, video to installation, in addition to photography, printmaking and jewellery. This exhibition at the Arco dei Becci gallery space will include her recent bronze sculptures with gold and silver leaf, as well as a number of large tapestries. “ I love tapestries ”, Smith says, “ I think they are sacred, and are like a blanket. They protect you from the world, creating a cushion between you and the world. Mine are fabrics on Jacquard frames, and are different from traditional handmade fabrics… I make an original drawing, then a lithograph, then a collage and finally the colour is painted. The tapestries enable me to work intensely with colour, and I like this. ” The artist’s desire for an intimate and domestic setting to house the show – a selection of sculptures, stained glass pieces and drawings – has led to one of San Gimignano’s historic homes being opened to the public for the first time, inviting viewers through a series of rooms overlooking the beautiful Piazza della Cisterna. The unusual exhibition path ends up in the gallery’s garden, for which the artist has produced a bronze fountain.
Smith’s work is layered with meaning, metaphor and paradox. The core of her poetics is the representation of the body – its perishability and vulnerability, its fragility and its strength. Smith’s early works speak of bodies riveted by the drama of their organic finiteness, of lacerated, cut-up bodies; a vision rooted in both medieval iconography and nineteenth-century science. At the end of the 1990’s, her figures became more compact and their narrative became a sacred story. Her recent sculptures, paper works and installations are populated by birds, wolves and mythological figures. While this bestiary stems from antiquity, it is neither geographically nor historically situated. Smith’s subjects are part of a collective memory.
Kiki Smith’s exhibition at Galleria Continua explores the relationship between the human being and nature, between the body and the world, between the natural kingdom and the spiritual one. In these works, narrative becomes fable, myth, a site of memory and a representation of the unconscious. Her work moves adroitly through different cultural territories; the collective unconscious; identity; nature and thought.
until 30 August 2014
Lamb with Thicket, 2005
Wolf with Birds IV, 2010
Bird XIV, 2011
Kiki Smith, “Path” installation views at Galleria Continua, San Gimignano, 2014
Courtesy: the artist and Galleria Continua, San Gimignano / Beijing / Les Moulins. Photos: Ela Bialkowska, OKNO STUDIO.
Pascale Marthine Tayou “Update!”
Update! is an artistic and initiatory project,
Update! to stir once again my interest in the permanent shock of mass culture, a project like a large question mark over the imagination of a large world,
a project portrait of multiple-man, god-man, cult-man, man of rituals and taboos, Update! like a visual disruption of beliefs and traditions,
plastic testimony that mixes sounds and images, forms and smells,
an Art-chitecture constructed as a detector at the heart of current customs, Update! is uncertainty, and is also and perhaps only incomprehension.
Pascale Marthine Tayou
With these words Pascale Marthine Tayou introduces “Update!”, the new solo show for Galleria Continua, where, besides a series of recent pieces, the artist is also presenting works conceived specifically for the exhibition spaces in San Gimignano’s former cinema and theatre.
It is hard to find a definition to identify the poetic process activated by Tayou, perpetually suspended between the eccentric and colourful recounting of the everyday and the need to mix situations, human peculiarities and geographies. For the artist the work comes into being in close connection with life; the origins of the installations lie in personal experience and in the use of found materials or images, and relate to the continual circulation of individuals and objects in the world. The journey, the encounter, energy, spontaneity and chance play a fundamental role in it.
Pascale Marthine Tayou’s exhibition for Galleria Continua explores the idea of the journey, and likewise the capacity to engage with a continually changing reality. Conscious that the notion of geography is becoming ever more mobile, the artist conceives the journey not only as a condition of life but also as a psychological dimension capable of subverting social relations, the symbolic, psychological, political and economic patterns of life. “Many of the people I have met think I am an “artist”, but I think of myself more as a traveller. Ferrying a void and searching for nothing, a criminal of luxury in search of pleasures. I am insatiable, and I always want to reveal myself. Sometimes I conceal myself in my mirror, and often I break it, I shatter it. Mute every day, and every day that passes I hope to be the opposite of my Self in the mind of those who think they know who I am. It is a certainty that travelling is the hope of encountering the magic that hides the mysteries of human rationality.” This was Tayou’s response to a journalist’s request to define the term ‘journey’. In “Update!” the journey is evoked by the postcards of Menu Familial, by the small French motorbike – mobylette – covered with African objects and materials, and again, by works like Landscape o Terres Riches, the oneiric and at once realistic representation of a rich and distant land.
Images of migration, untranslatability of cultures far removed one from the other, paradoxes and inventive solutions that arise within the ambit of processes of appropriation – these are the themes developed in the Falling Houses. These works give us the image of a new and overturned world, a form of carnival where the poor become rich, where the children of Cameroon dress up in the costumes of figures from Western culture. The same happens in other works in the exhibition, for example in the prints on wood of L’Ecole des Clowns and in the Poupées Pascale, the result of a hybridization of different traditions: the European one, with the technique of blown glass, and the African one with the fetish form. The cultural mimesis wrought by Tayou starts from tribal identity and ends up offering a contemporary and global reading of the characters. Sophisticated and highly colourful, the Poupées are a bridge between spirit and matter; they represent a fluid space where geographic-cultural boundaries are erased in order to speak of sacredness and life.
In the context of mass culture, intermingling and anarchic development can lead to situations of crisis, creating problems that endanger the whole of humankind. Of these problematic issues, “Update!” brings to the fore the pollution of the planet, but also the exhausting of conflict-generating energy resources. The knotted “tentacles” of Octopus offer an apt metaphor of this. Despite these negative aspects, Tayou never ceases to remind us that the encounter is the reason and origin of life, and the artist does so with works that are authentic celebrations of life, articulations of the poetry and of the physical nature of amorous sentiment, such as Graffiti Neon and Scene of Life.
until 30 August 2014
Above – Colorful Calabashes, 2014 and Plastic Tree C, 2014
Charcoal H, 2012
Cloth paintings, 2013
Menu Familial, 2000-2009
Graffiti neon D, 2014
Les Sauveteurs Gnang Gnang, 2011
Pascale’s eggs, 2014
Pascale Marthine Tayou, “Update!” installation views at Galleria Continua, San Gimignano, 2014
Courtesy: the artist; Galleria Continua, San Gimignano. Photos: Ela Bialkowska, OKNO STUDIO.