10
Jun
12

Exhibition: ‘Francesca Woodman’ at The Guggenheim Museum, New York

Exhibition dates: 16th March – 13th June 2012

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In 1981, at the age of twenty-two, she committed suicide. Simple words, profound effect.

The world lost one of its truly unique artists and at such a young age. What we have left is a remarkable body of work compiled in a brief six year period. These are strong, sensuous photographs of the female body in space. The body, her body, seems to have an absent presence as it is pressed into walls and occluded by wallpaper. It passes from view, as she did in her physical form.

In small ways the work reminds me of the blurred photographs of Ralph Eugene Meatyard in their gothic Surrealism. But there is nothing quite like a Woodman. As soon as you see one of the photographs you know it is her work instinctively; there is nobody else’s voice like hers. The work will not soon be passing out of sight, memory, or existence. The light still burns bright for hers was a truly remarkable talent.

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Many thankx to The Guggenheim Museum for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

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Installation view: Francesca Woodman, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, March 16 – June 13, 2012
Photos: David Heald © Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation

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Francesca Woodman
Untitled
1980
MacDowell Colony, Peterborough, New Hampshire
Gelatin silver print
11.4 x 11.4 cm
Courtesy George and Betty Woodman
© 2012 George and Betty Woodman

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Francesca Woodman
Untitled (from the Angels series)
1977
Rome
Gelatin silver print
7.6 x 7.6 cm
Courtesy George and Betty Woodman
© 2012 George and Betty Woodman

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Francesca Woodman
House #4
1976
Providence, Rhode Island
Gelatin silver print
14.6 x 14.6 cm
Courtesy George and Betty Woodman
© 2012 George and Betty Woodman

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Francesca Woodman
Caryatid
1980
New York
Diazotype
227.3 x 92.1 cm
Courtesy George and Betty Woodman
© 2012 George and Betty Woodman

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Francesca Woodman, the most comprehensive exhibition of the artist’s work since Woodman’s untimely death in 1981 at the age of 22, will be on view at the Guggenheim Museum from March 16 through June 13, 2012. Spanning the breadth of her production, the exhibition includes more than 120 vintage photographs, artist books, and a selection of recently discovered and rarely seen short videos, presenting a historical reconsideration of Woodman’s brief but extraordinary career.

Francesca Woodman is the first comprehensive survey of the artist’s brief but extraordinary career to be seen in North America. More than thirty years after her death, the moment is ripe for a historical reconsideration of her work and its reception. This retrospective offers an occasion to examine more closely the maturation and expression of a highly subjective and coherent artistic vision. It also presents an important and timely opportunity to reassess the critical developments that took place in the 1970s in American photography and video.

Woodman’s oeuvre represents a remarkably rich and singular exploration of the human body in space and of the genre of self-portraiture in particular. Her interest in female subjectivity, seriality, Conceptualist practice, and photography’s relationship to both literature and performance are also the hallmarks of the heady moment in American photography during which she came of age. This retrospective offers an occasion to examine more closely the maturation and expression of a highly subjective and coherent artistic vision. It also presents an important and timely opportunity to reassess the critical developments that took place in the 1970s in American photography.

Born in 1958 into a family of artists, Woodman began photographing at the age of thirteen. By the time she enrolled at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) in 1975, she was already an accomplished artist with a remarkably mature and focused approach to her work. During her time at RISD, she spent a year in Rome, a place she had visited as a child, and which proved to be a fertile source of inspiration. After completing her degree, she moved to New York, where she continued to photograph. While making several large-scale personal projects, she also experimented with fashion photography, engaging in the age-old artist’s struggle to reconcile making art and making a living. In 1981, at the age of twenty-two, she committed suicide. Woodman’s tragic death is underscored by the startlingly compelling, complex, and artistically resolved body of work she produced during her short lifetime.

Woodman’s favorite subject was herself. From the very first time she picked up a camera, she used it to thoroughly plumb the genre of self-portraiture. Using a square-format camera, Woodman photographed her body in a variety of spaces. She had an affinity for decaying and decrepit interiors, particularly the richly layered surfaces of walls covered with graffiti or peeling wallpaper. In these settings the body is evanescent, appearing and disappearing behind objects, pressed into cupboards and cabinets, camouflaged against walls, or dissolving into a blur of movement. She frequently included objects within the frame – gloves, eels, mirrors – thereby investing them with a symbolic charge, and often making deliberate allusions to tropes from the Surrealist and gothic fiction she admired.

The presentation at the Guggenheim will comprise approximately 120 vintage photographs, including Woodman’s earliest student experiments at RISD, work from her time spent studying in Rome, her forays into fashion photography upon moving to New York, and the late, large-scale blueprint studies of caryatid-like figures for the ambitious Temple project (1980). The exhibition will include two of her artist books – diaristic collages of her own photographs and writings – which were an important form of expression, particularly at the end of her career. Woodman also experimented with moving images; six recently discovered and rarely seen short videos will be presented in the exhibition.

Francesca Woodman is organized by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA). The exhibition has been curated by Corey Keller, Associate Curator of Photography, SFMOMA, where it opened in November 2011. The New York presentation of Francesca Woodman is organized by Jennifer Blessing, Senior Curator, Photography, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum.”

Text from The Guggenheim website

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Francesca Woodman
Polka Dots
1976
Providence, Rhode Island
Gelatin silver print
13.3 x 13.3 cm
Courtesy George and Betty Woodman
© 2012 George and Betty Woodman

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Francesca Woodman
Space2
1976
Providence, Rhode Island
Gelatin silver print, 13.7 x 13.3 cm
Courtesy George and Betty Woodman
© 2012 George and Betty Woodman

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Francesca Woodman
Self-Portrait talking to Vince
1975-78
Providence, Rhode Island
Gelatin silver print
13 x 12.9 cm
Courtesy George and Betty Woodman
© 2012 George and Betty Woodman

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Francesca Woodman
Untitled
1976
Providence, Rhode Island
Gelatin silver print
13.3 x 13.5 cm
Courtesy George and Betty Woodman
© 2012 George and Betty Woodman

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Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
1071 5th Avenue (at 89th Street)
New York

Opening hours:
Monday – Wednesday, Friday 10 am – 5.45 pm
Saturday 10 am – 7.45 pm
Thursday closed

Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes the Art Blart blog which reviews exhibitions in Melbourne, Australia and posts exhibitions from around the world. He has a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne and is currently studying a Master of Art Curatorship at The University of Melbourne.

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