6.02.2010

Motherlode: Betty Woodman at Max Protetch

Overview here
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In a long career of working with clay, Betty Woodman has taken the vessel and enlarged it, flattened it, cut it up, and reconstructed it. She has put it on the wall, on a pedestal and, now, placed it onto the picture plane. Form most definitely does not follow function.
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From the street, a hard-to-see peek into the Project Room
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This show, Paintings, up through June 5, consists of three paintings and a sculpture in the Project Room, which is visible from the street, and a large painting-and-sculpture installation in the gallery’s back viewing room.

Installation view, with images of the individual paintings, each with detail, below
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Matisse is clearly the influence here, but Woodman is exploring ambiguous form and space. Flat, patterned plaques are set into a depiction of interior space; loose-limbed “vessels” allude to the human figure, their sinuous lines suggestive of movement. Visually sublime, they tell us flat out that the space is an illusion, but they invite us to enter all the same.

The Polka Dot Man, 2010, glazed earthenware, acrylic and canvas, 82.5 x 38 x 1.5 inches
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Detail below

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The Polka Dot Lady, 2010, glazed earthenware, acrylic and canvas, 83 x 47.75 x 1.5 inches
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Detail below

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Lattice Lady, 2010, glazed earthenware, acrylic and canvas, 86 x 45.25 x 1.5 inches
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Detail below

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The installation in the back viewing room does allow us to enter, if only the space between the sculpture and the painting. Woodman's sculptures are a kind of handmade post-modern cubism, vessels spliced with vessel-like forms. A large recombinant sculpture converses with a large painting nearby as you enter the space between them, while a small earthenware vessels stands sentinel at the visual portal to the painting. Just as you are about to visually enter the two-dimensional work, a "falling" figure bars your path.
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I love how this ebulliantly decorative and spatially ambiguous work is so different from Anne Truitt's solid and rational formality--and that I can respond wholeheartedly to both.
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Falling Man, 2010, glazed earthenware, acrylic and canvas, 93.5 x 86 x 11 inches; foreground, Aztec Vase #10, 2010, glazed earthenware, epoxy resin, lacquer and paint
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2 comments:

Tamar said...

Woodman's pieces are playfully subversive--a walk through an exhibit of her work always leaves me smiling. In her show at the Met Museum a couple of years ago, there were a group of flattened 'pitchers' that were arrayed like a Greek chorus--visually delicious!

jaclyn said...

These are so wonderful and full of life, I definitely agree with them making you smile! People like Matisse existed so that people like Betty could make art just a little bit cooler than Matisse.