New York Times, April 12, 2002

By Holland Cotter

IKiki Smith has never shied away from the big existential subjects that seem to embarrass everyone else: birth, death, resurrection. And her combination of Romantic candor and formal solidity tends to carry the day even when her work is disadvantageously displayed, as it is in one-half of her current solo double-header.

The good news first. The uptown portion, at Triple Candie, is one of Ms. Smith's most beautiful New York shows of recent years, thanks in part to a persuasive installation. This nonprofit Harlem gallery is made up of a single wide-open, high-windowed space, which gives plenty of breathing room to the 10 sculptures here.

All are of nude women with slender, childlike figures, large heads and gentle faces. Of the seven small bronzes, some have narrative associations. One, titled ''Ophelia,'' lies with her back arched and her legs sightly raised, as if she were both convulsing and floating. The woman in ''Expulsion'' imitates the body-covering gesture of Masaccio's painting of Eve driven from Paradise, though without the anguished look of the original. Other figures, including the three large plaster pieces derived from the bronzes, seem detached from any specific action; they have the physical grace and psychological poise of South Indian temple bronzes.

Pace Wildenstein's gallery in Chelsea is less generously proportioned, and the bulky, complicated work Ms. Smith is showing there ends up looking overproduced. Three life-size sculptures of kneeling women are perched atop piles of loose logs. Close by -- too close by, in fact -- full-length figures are suspended among clusters of poles.

Practically speaking, this work should have been shown uptown and the smaller bronze sculptures in Chelsea, though the Triple Candie installation is so good that I would leave things as they are.


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