Stare. It is the way to educate your eye, and more. Stare, pry, listen, eavesdrop. Die knowing something. You are not here long. -- Walker Evans

Monday, May 21, 2012

Francesca Woodman

A new retrospective book of Woodman's work was published in 20111, to accompany an exhibition at SFMOMA. (This is one of a handful of books that has changed the way I think about photography; check out the interview with Corey Keller, the book's editor, at American Photo, which named it one of the four best photo books of the year.) Coupled with this book and exhibition, an internationally touring exhibition has brought about much media comment on her work of late. 

Tragically, In 1981, after a period of depression, she committed suicide, aged 22. That this influential work was created during her educational years, is astounding. 

Space2, 1976
From The New York Review of BooksGiven that her complete catalogue is composed almost entirely of work she produced as a student, the posthumous critical esteem for American photographer Francesca Woodman is astonishing. Unlike music or math, where precocious displays of talent are not uncommon, photography tends not to have prodigies. Woodman, who committed suicide in 1981 at age 22, is considered a rare exception. That she has achieved such status is all the more remarkable considering only a quarter of the approximately 800 images she produced - many of them self-portraits - have ever been seen by the public. [Read more...]

From The Economist
With their spectral figures dissolving into Gothic ruins, the black-and-white photographs of Francesca Woodman look so antiquated as to be thoroughly modern in our nostalgia-riddled digital age. She shrouded herself in sheets of plastic, smeared Vaseline on mirrors, and tucked herself into vitrines. In some of her pictures her nude body appears as a solid form, all contours and negative space, like a prop in a Man Ray photograph. In others the only evidence of her body is a pair of legs underneath a diaphanous blur. [Read more...]

On being an angel #1, 1977
From The GuardianFrancesca Woodman has been called a modernist, a surrealist and, even, a gothic artist. Her work carries echoes of all three traditions, but it evades categorisation. As a young woman, she photographed herself obsessively but often she appears as a blur of movement or a half-hidden figure, someone constantly trying to escape or hide. The end result is not self-portraiture, but a series of stills from a continuous performance in which she plays with the notion of the self, disguising, transforming and defacing her own body. [Read more...]
Untitled, from Eel Series, 1977-78
From American Photo: Some three decades after her untimely suicide at the age of 22, Francesca Woodman remains a powerful presence in photography. As a young artist exploring themes of the female body and its perceived impermanence, her work immediately became a focus for feminist theorists and art historians around the world. But as is often the case with an artist's work viewed posthumously through the lens of tragedy, that's only a part of the story. 

A new exhibition at SFMOMA, curated by Corey Keller, hopes to tell the full story. It is the first major U.S. retrospective of Woodman's photographs, on view through February 20 in San Francisco and appearing at New York's Guggenheim museum next spring.  Its accompanying monograph, Francesca Woodman (D.A.P./SFMOMA), is one of our books of the year. We spoke with Corey Keller on the challenges of curating the work of a young artist taken by tragedy, and the unexpected themes that emerge from Woodman's photographs when viewed in a less tragic context.
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From The Tate Modern Artist Rooms YouTube Channell:
 American photographer Francesca Woodman has eighteen rare vintage black and white photographs in the ARTIST ROOMS display, from a collection once owned by the artist's boyfriend. Woodmans photographs exhibit many influences, from symbolism and surrealism to fashion photography and Baroque painting. They have a timeless quality that is ethereal and unique. [Read more ...]

1 Francesca Woodman, Corey Teller (ed), San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in association with Distributed Art Publishers, New York, 2011. Buy at: Fishpond / The Book Depository / Amazon

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