In an era in which conceptual forms have dominated art practice, Kiki Smith's work demonstrates the continuing relevance of craft. As to its most physical properties, it is difficult to think of a contemporary artist who has proven herself more eager to experiment with differing media – paper flat, paper wrinkled and folded, and paper molded; various metals cast on an heroic scale and on that of the amulet or trinket; wax which implicitly makes candles of flesh; glass, thread, wide range of print-making techniques and so much more.
Kiki Smith's first solo exhibition in India includes - in addition to an exquisite array of 'prints, books and things' - a new body of drawings in ink on Nepalese paper, with silver leaf and glitter applications. To cite Robert Storr, \"The delicate also approaching life-size figures she draws in quavering lines and hatchings, recall the sketches of adolescent girls contemplating a mysterious, at once alluring and alarming womanhood. In such works the meatiness of wax gives way to the brittleness of papers embodying the fragility of sheerest vellum or parchment.\"
Smith has consistently engaged with political issues and has helped extend the idea of feminist art. A case in point are the etchings in the current show of what she calls 'female superheroes', who are variations on fairy tale characters like Red Riding Hood and fictional ones such as Alice from Lewis Carroll's nineteenth children's novels. However, she has never allowed her political commitment to become a trap or an encumbrance. The current show, for instance, contains three prints that depict predatory animals attacking naked females but, as titles like'Rapture' suggest, the images are imbued with an edgy, ironic sexuality.
The aura of Smith's work emanates from the tension between the unexpectedness of what she shows us and the familiarity of the visual languages she uses. Formally, her stories all begin \"once upon a time\" but end, if they can be said to end at all, in the indeterminate and destablizing zone of improvised immediacy.