The last decade of a wild a millennium, the 1990s rejected the fashions and practices of the 80s in preference of grunge and hip hop. Cable TV and public Internet transformed lifestyles, learning, and social culture. The 1990s became a period of intense political movement throughout the world, as countries like those from the Warsaw Pact, South Africa, and Chile transitioned to democratically elected governments placing more power into the hands of their people, and Nelson Mandela’s election effectively ended apartheid in South Africa. Along with the changes in popular and political culture, the art market for contemporary prints experienced a period of change as well. Unlike the 1980s, the frenzy surrounding printmaking subsided in the 1990s. Sadly, printmaking lost its previous popularity as the world began to face economic struggles. Art was soon viewed as a frivolous commodity, forcing connoisseurship to decline.
The art of the 1990s lost the demanded precision of previous decades. The message created through works of art became the primary focus of artists who opted to engage the viewer, forcing them to confront the uglier and uncomfortable realities of society. Many artists used installation art as a way to upset traditional gallery spaces and to assault all senses of the viewer. With new global awareness stimulated by the Internet and countries in crisis, art began to fervently reference the global community.
In this print, Kiki Smith confronts identity, body image, and notions of “women’s work” in the early 1990s. See Worm on view in “It’s New / It’s Now: Recent Gifts of Contemporary Prints and Drawings” at the MIA.
Check back next week when we explore the digital revolution, Homeland Security Advisory System, sustainability, and Ugg boots of the 2000s.
Kiki Smith, Worm, 1992, etching, aquatint, and photogravure with cutouts and collage on black Japanese paper. Anonymous gift 2011.74.14, © Kiki Smith/ Universal Limited Art Editions
More about the artist and print
Kiki Smith’s work, often self-portraiture, generally focuses on gender, body image, rebirth, and societal norms. Here, Smith is the worm, formed from segmented images of her neck and limbs. It is a metaphor for regeneration, an allusion to the fact that a worm, when cut in half, can often regrow the missing part of its body. The image of the female nude curled upon herself is also that of the artist, while the microscopic images at the right suggest internal forms of the human body. Smith includes several cut-paper flowers and designs, elements traditionally associated with craft and “women’s work” meant to disrupt the patriarchal conventions associated with “high” art.
Visit “It’s New / It’s Now: Recent Gifts of Contemporary Prints and Drawings” to see Worm and 120 other contemporary prints and drawings in person. Reserve your tickets today!
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