‘What I Saw on the Road”: Contemporary Art Show by Kiki Smith at the Pitti Palace

Until June 2: WHAT I SAW ON THE ROAD, works by Kiki Smith.  Andito degli Angiolini, Pitti Palace. Open 8:15 am – 6 pm, closed Monday. Admission included in a ticket to the Pitti Palace:  €16 per person and €8 for EU residents ages 18 to 25.

From bronze statues to woven cotton tapestries to papier-maché paintings, “What I Saw on the Road” is a collection of multi-media modern art pieces by German-born, American artist Kiki Smith.

The exhibition contains several wall-to-floor tapestries that resemble embroidered Flemish tapestries from centuries past. On woven fabric, a deer peers at viewers as they enter the corridor while, in the very last room, a short animation of a white wolf loping around darkness plays on repeat eternally. Animals, plants, and other earth elements are scattered across the jacquard cotton: birds wheel around the open white skies and moths brighten a cold black background.

But more than that, Smith presents a look into the fragile nature of humanity using nature as a lens. In one piece, a woman walks along the riverbank, a snake circling around her from a tree as she stares calmly ahead; it brings to mind Eve and the snake, only they are in peace with one another. In another, a man lies along a riverbank, almost sleeping, while the world continues around him as a family of rabbits runs around the scene.

Other pieces, however, have seemingly nothing to do with the natural theme of the exhibition. One wall is covered with solid bronze stars on either side of a doorway. At the very back of the corridor, there is a silver statue of what looks like a seated male adult that is five feet tall staring dead ahead with a raised hand and blank eyes called the “Annunciation,” reminding the viewer of the archangel Gabriel making his announcement to the Virgin Mary.

Smith is the latest talent in a three year long outreach for the Uffizi galleries to feature modern female artists in their institutions. Pieces by Maria Lassnig was featured in the same rooms in 2017 where Maria Lai also displayed her art in 2018.

Kiki Smith was born January 18, 1954 in Nuremberg, Germany to an artist father and opera singer mother. She is a global citizen, having moved to New Jersey when she was still an infant. As soon as she saw an opportunity in 1976, she moved to New York City to join Colab (Collaborative Projects), an artistic group that is called both innovative and radical. Her work evolved in this period, featuring pieces made by various materials, such as gold, iron, paper, fabric, blood and other types of bodily fluids, and even tattoos, all of which she taught herself: she is a multidisciplinary artist, a true Renaissance woman.

Smith has since won a multitude of awards— the U.S. State Department Medal of Arts in 2012, the Lifetime Achievement in Contemporary Sculpture Award from the International Sculpture Center in 2016, and other high accolades. Her art has been featured in places such as the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, several locations in New York City, and Regent’s Park in London. Her work has previously traveled to Italy; she was featured at the Venice Biennale four times and twice at the Florence Biennale.  (katy rose sparks)