KIM DICKEY | Auguries


KIM DICKEY | Auguries
Oct 26, 2023 – Jan 13, 2024

Robischon Gallery is pleased to present Auguries, Kim Dickey’s second solo exhibition including small and large-scale ceramic and cast metal sculptures. Widely recognized for her assembled constructions of repeating glazed terracotta and stoneware elements in leaf-shaped forms, for Auguries, the artist expands her material interests and offers an expression of perceived divinations from observations of the natural world using both her deeply considered conceptual approach and her theatrical sense of space. Dickey states, “If auguries portend the future, we do not necessarily read these signs correctly. In their ambiguity, they prey upon our weaknesses: worry, hubris, fear, and they reveal more about the character of the person seeking this foresight than what the future might actually hold.” Yet, even as Dickey may project a future without humans, the search for meaning in the world surrounding continues.

In the Roman practice of augury, the observation of birds – hearing their song (by Oscines, including owls or crows), type and numbers, their flight paths (by Alites, which includes eagles), the pattern of chickens feeding, etc. – all held secrets for the state of things to come, and shaped the decisions of Rome. In Auguries, Dickey subverts predictive expectations because, she notes, “the birds have landed and now observe us; they are roosting, brooding, gleaning, and claiming the space of speech, the space of men. Lecterns occupied by the eagles that once adorned them, by hens and bats in their familiar domestic forms, all silently awaiting the speaker. Vacated by human actors, these stages are quietly populated by the inhabitants left behind. No longer just ornament to our lives, they act as silent witness to our futures.”

On the main gallery wall, Dickey offers the elaborately constructed Sixth Sense wall sculpture. Based on the series of six tapestries in the Cluny Museum in Paris each demonstrating one of the five senses with an additional tapestry on desire. Dickey explains, “I restitched these six images into my own collage of an idealized landscape where I’ve removed all the human figures. What is left, and now foregrounded, are the flora and fauna, the action that is taking place in the background, the hidden and unseen, the backdrop to our lives for which these tapestries served. I hoped to create an empty stage while highlighting the action in this red field and blue island, as both a beautiful backdrop of mille-fleur (a thousand flowers) and an alarming landscape strewn with cut flowers held in suspension.” The structure is aluminum clad with majolica-glazed terracotta quatrefoil which evoke both leaf and flower, and like pixels, comprises a whole image while existing as individual still-life paintings.” Sixth Sense is painted to a projection (a layered subject of the work, too) of the final image in raw glaze, removed, fired, and remounted permanently. The six aluminum panels are assembled into one form with the over nine-thousand ceramic elements placed individually.

The medallion wall sculptures that begin Auguries reiterate the iconography and ceramic quatrefoil construction of Sixth Sense with Dickey stating, “these refer to decorative traditions whose meanings were informed by an embedded symbolic language. The Scotch thistle featured in Natural Defense (Scotch Thistle) helped defeat the invasion of Scotland by the Romans through its own conquer of the fields and highlands. Conception focuses on the Madonna Lily, named after the miraculous pregnancy and purity of the Virgin, as an untouched, pure ideal. These two images are borrowed from the mille-fleur backdrop of the Unicorn in Captivity tapestry from the MET Cloisters collection, while De-Robe-ia riffs on the Della Robbia tradition of ceramic medallion portraits, often featuring the Virgin and Child, and to the green man tradition of blending plant and human form on capital ornamentation – an early form of camouflage and lurking forest forms.”

With her elaborate leaf-form animals including Great Horned and Nightwatch (Blind Perception after Victor Hugo), Dickey reconsiders the ornate and instructive figures that adorned cloisters and once served as cautionary tales to warn the monks of human flaws and foibles lest they succumb to temptation. The artist states, “While these animals may represent certain qualities in our culture, for every assigned attribute, the meaning can flip. It is something I perceive in the way these animals were employed in heraldic imagery and their attendant family mottos. While presenting themselves as moral champions, conversely the animals also embodied the falseness of any claim to character strength. In other words, there is fallibility and vulnerability latently embedded in these images. As humans, our strength lies in this reminder of imperfection, in our humility and our awareness of this fact.” Culminating the hard-won exhibition are the bronze rabbit and lioness sculptures respectively titled, Time Out (When in Doubt, Wash) and The Impossibility of Letting Go. The large-scale versions were inspired by the artist’s previous series of foliated ceramic animals show here in the 2015 Claustrum (Cloister) exhibition. The bronze creatures, the artist notes, “are not classically posed but rather, are in a private moment of reflection, lifting off their shields to exert their own agency, unbound.”

Small in scale, but not to be overlooked, Dickey’s diminutive, cast-iron laurel wreath reveals upon close inspection to be made of a multitude of human-sized tongues and not the expected leaves. By mourning (mother) tongues references W. H. Auden’s “In Memory of W. B. Yeats,” an elegiac to the death of a titan whose poetry transcends his death. Like all of Dickey’s work, multiple meanings flourish – a suggested laurel wreath to wear on a head becomes burdensomely weighty; severed from a mouth, tongues become useless, but even silenced of utterances, the power of speech is implied by its very instrument.

In Auguries, Kim Dickey’s potent, perhaps prognosticating animals – surveilling or indifferent – may replace an absent humanity. However, the singularly human act of speech as the dissemination of wisdom implied by lecterns and revealed in flower or animal languages from history and of the artist’s making, thoughtfully resonates and fully prevails.


Kim Dickey received a BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design and an MFA from Alfred University, NY. Dickey’s work is included in the permanent collections of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, AK; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY; the University of Colorado Collection, University of Colorado, Boulder; Everson Museum, Syracuse, NY; Guldagergaard International Art Center, Skaelskor, Denmark; John Michael Kohler Art Center, Sheboygan, WI; Museum of Contemporary Art, Honolulu, HI; Museum of Contemporary Art, Denver, CO; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX; as well as many international private and corporate collections. Her solo exhibitions include a mid-career retrospective at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Denver, CO and she has participated in Museum exhibitions at institutions such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY; Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, AR; the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art, Boulder, CO; the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, North Adams, MA; the Museum of Arts and Design, NY; and the Contemporary Art Museum, Honolulu, HI. Kim Dickey has participated in invitationals in Australia, France, Germany, Japan, Korea, Sweden, Taiwan, the UK, and throughout the US. Her site-specific work is permanently installed at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York, NY; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Denver, CO; the Slagelse Radhus for the Danish Ministry of Culture, Denmark along with several privately commissioned projects. In addition to receiving numerous awards, grants and fellowships, such as the New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship, and the Sydney College of the Arts Research Fellowship at the University of Sydney, Australia, Dickey was included in the shortlist of artists nominated to represent Colorado in the Exhibition “New Worlds: Women to Watch 2024” at the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, DC. Kim Dickey is a tenured Professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder, where she has received the College Scholar Award, a Eugene Kayden Award and Provost Faculty Achievement Award from the University of Colorado Boulder