Infancy, adulthood, mortality. These stages were depicted on glass by the careful hand of Kiki Smith. When I entered The Pace Gallery on 22nd Street, I immediately thought: Japanese screens. But after walking around each freestanding piece, I modified that thought. “Pilgrim”, as the works are collectively named, felt like a collection of windows. It wasn’t just the symmetry of painted glass—each stage of the human pilgrimage was rendered as a world in itself, portrayed as rooms without walls. Inspired by Prudence Punderson’s The First, Second and Last Scene of Mortality, Pilgrim focuses as much on eternal consolation as it does in momentary despair. The winged form and feather of Ave, 2000 was present. In most of the pieces that contained them, light bulbs reminded me of dream catchers. That led me to wonder about relationships to light as guidance. If “Pilgrim” takes its cue from the North Star, what can we deduce from the dream catcher’s relationship to an electrical synapse? Is it contrasting an eternal light with a contemporary source of illumination? Is each stage of the cyclical journey illuminated differently, due to reliance on the body as compass?
The gallery space became a sitting room, complete with three benches for viewing “Pilgrim”. As viewers we sit, look at windows encapsulating trajectories of the human condition, in the form of female experience. Although it’s not the first time Smith has applied the use of a grid, as a viewer, it’s the first time that a square shape has ever felt cyclical.
Read my piece on Kiki Smith at the Brooklyn Museum and Pace Gallery on Velvet Park Media.