Elizabeth King combines figurative sculpture with stop-frame animation in works that blur the boundary between actual and virtual object. Intimate in scale and made to solicit close looking, her work reflects her interest in the history of the puppet, the automaton, the medical model, and literature’s host of legends in which the artificial figure comes to life. She asks, “What is the figure in sculpture now? The representation of the body and its life: can I absorb the news from biotechnology and cognitive science but keep art’s ancient pact with theater?”
Her most recent solo show, “Radical Small” at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA), was on view from February 2017 through January 2018. A retrospective exhibition entitled “The Sizes of Things in the Mind’s Eye,” curated by Ashley Kistler, traveled to five museums and art centers in the U.S. between 2007 and 2009. Her work is in permanent collections in the US including the Hirshhorn Museum, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Hood Museum of Dartmouth, the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, the Sheldon Museum of Art at the University of Nebraska Lincoln, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Awards for her work include a 2014 Anonymous Was a Woman Award, a 2006 Academy Award in Art from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a 2002 Guggenheim Fellowship, and a 1996-97 Fellowship in the Visual Arts at the Mary Ingraham Bunting Institute, now the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University. She was Artist-in-Residence at Dartmouth College in the spring of 2008, and was among artists in residence at the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation in 2017. She was inducted as a member of the National Academy of Design in November, 2017.
Her book, Attention’s Loop (A Sculptor’s Reverie on the Coexistence of Substance and Spirit) was published by Harry Abrams in 1999. She is currently finishing a second book with co-author W. David Todd of the Smithsonian Institution entitled The Monk: A Sixteenth-Century Automaton and Its Legend. The monk is the subject of a shorter essay, “Perpetual Devotion: A Sixteenth-Century Machine That Prays” included in the 2007 volume Genesis Redux: Essays in the History and Philosophy of Artificial Life edited by Jessica Riskin (University of Chicago Press).
She taught in the Department of Sculpture and Extended Media at Virginia Commonwealth University from 1985 to 2015. From 2007 to 2020 her work was represented in New York by Danese/Corey.
A documentary film about her work, by Olympia Stone, was released in 2018: Double Take: The Art of Elizabeth King.