Saturday, April 10, 2010
Kiki Smith 2 and Milton Rogovin
Going through the rest of the show starting with a young girl trapped (floating?) in a branch, to odd photographs that seem to evoke fragments of organs, to Mary Magdalene ( we know her story, Christ's "fallen" woman) , to Lot's Wife (who turned to a pillar of salt, if you remember), to the Harpies (perched about on mouldings high above us) , to the witches, to the little girls, dead white animals, dead black crows, shredded puppet, worms, and a photograph of just Guanyin's head on its side (the image is in previous post) which does not suggest her power as a goddess of love and mercy and childbearing. There is only one message for me - violence against women, and especially little girls. The show is presenting frighened girls and oddly powerless witches. Even fairy tales where little girls succeed, like Alice in Wonderland, seem to be oddly ambibuous - will she succeed in escaping her pursuers??
The question is why doesn't Kiki Smith say what her real subject is, why is she so unwilling to be an advocate for all the victims she creates in her sculptures?? Why does she make victims from powerful goddesses and biblical women. Why can't they fight back? Why doesn't she fight back? My intelligent friend Deborah Lawrence talked me out of saying it is about personal trauma. What do I know, but why is Smith so obsessed with this single subject of death and threats of death and powerlessness.
The contrast to Cindy Sherman comes to mind who works from film, that, like fairy tales, are often about violence against women (in fact the new mythology), but we know they are re-staged with herself as the main actor, and she is opposing violence against women by calling attention to it.
Kiki adds to the victims in the world without doing anything for them. As far as I am concerned this is not feminism.
In an intriguing revelation, she mentioned that she had worked with Bread and Puppet theater for awhile. But she takes their confrontational approach and empties it of all resistance in making these prone or frozen or fragmented women and girls.
And what an amazing contrast to the adjacent gallery at the Henry with the photography of Milton Rogovin.
He wrote poetry about the subjects of his work.
Here are a few of his comments.
"They are regular people just like the rest of us. We must not abandon them."
"Everybody should have an opportunity for a better education."
" All around we saw people with great potential but we knew none of them would realize it under the conditions of our society."