Off view

American, b. 1954
river light, 2019
Circle of nine polyester silk flags on steel poles
25 ft. high (762 cm)
70 ft. wide (21.3 m) diam.
Each flag 7 ft. 6 in. x 10 ft. (228.6 x 304.8 cm)
Courtesy of the Artist and Pace Gallery, New York
To create the nine distinct images on the flags of river light, artist Kiki Smith worked from a film she took in 2005 of glints of sunlight on the East River, along which she used to walk to the 23rd Street public pool. She used “stills from the film, of the glints on water, and print[ed] them on Xerox. I traced and scratched them onto plexiglass plates, because I wanted them to relate to etching. Then we made cyanotypes from that. I started layering them to shift the focus, which made movement in the images.” The results are images that, in Smith’s words, engage with “aliveness, animating life, taking something inert and trying to imbue it with life.”

Smith’s extensive practice across many artistic mediums throughout her career has often occurred on an intimate scale. This large-scale installation of flags addresses natural forces and their ephemerality. When wind breathes movement into Kiki Smith’s ring of nine brilliant blue flags on Storm King’s Museum Hill, the flags fly in the same direction and mimic the unpredictable ripples and current of water.