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Kiki Smith
  • Kiki Smith

"A Couple Ways of Doing Something" at the Arkansas Arts Center does a couple of things. It brings a cohesive show into the Winthrop Rockefeller Gallery, usually dedicated to the Arts Center's collection and a beautiful exhibit space, and it brings word art — poetry — in as well. The Aperture Foundation-organized exhibit pairs poems by Bob Holman with photographs made by Chuck Close from daguerreotypes. Close made the daguerreotypes of friends — Laurie Anderson, Philip Glass, Kiki Smith, etc. — and scanned those imperfect photos to create 26 1/2-by-20 inch pigment prints and enormous 103-by-79 inch jacquard tapestries. The photos are actually woven into the tapestries, by means of a computer program that Close himself helped advance.

The result: Arresting portraits, part in exact focus, down to the pores, part a blur, the spotlight-reflecting eyes the focal point. The funny thing — given that Close is known for his photorealistic drawings and paintings — the softness of the enlarged daguerreotypes makes them something like drawings. You might not think that way if it wasn't Close, but it is.

The poems are meant to reflect on the person in the portrait, and with a few exceptions, they are difficult to grasp. For example, Holman's poem paired with the photograph of sculptor Kiki Smith begins:

Kiki everywhere it the it
Flyerama drama spidry
Kooku a lotta the blocka ...

I think it might be personal. Easier to understand is the poem with photographer Cindy Sherman's portrait:

Cindy Sherman
  • Cindy Sherman

All those other portraits of me
All those other portraits of me

Are just portraits

Not of me, no
Not of me, no

All that artifice inside the frame
Hold it right there in my hand

Hold my hand
Hold it right there


The tapestries, while amazing technologically and beautiful, don't have the same power as the pigment prints. Maybe fabric doesn't have punch. But they are quite amazing.

Included in the show is a photograph of sculptor James Turrell in the show. I'm going to see the Turrell skyspace on the grounds of the rising Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville next week, and will blog about it then.

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