(1930 – 2018), United States

Betty Woodman Biography

An influential figure in post-war American art, Betty Woodman drew connections between ceramics, sculpture, painting, architecture, and installation across her career which spanned nearly seven decades.

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Early Life

Betty Woodman was born in Norwalk, Connecticut, and raised in Newton, Massachusetts. She began exploring pottery as a teenager, going on to study ceramics at the School for American Craftsmen in Alfred, New York from 1948 to 1950. After graduating Woodman travelled to Italy, where she undertook an apprenticeship in the studio of Giorgio Ferrero and Lionello Fallacara.

Woodman was an active figure in the pottery community. In the 1950s, she petitioned for officials in Boulder, Colorado to fund the Pottery Lab where students could pursue pottery both recreationally and professionally.

In 1953, she married artist George Woodman. The two divided their time between Italy, New York, and Boulder through the rest of their lives.

Betty Woodman Artworks

Woodman's playful ceramic works are characterised by their vivid colours, experimental forms, and figurative qualities. She is recognised for her defiance of gender stereotypes in artistic practice throughout her career.

Early Works

Woodman's early practice consisted primarily of functional items such as plates, saucers, bowls, and cups, as well as homages to historical forms. Her series of glazed earthenware vessels, 'Etruscan Vases' (1965—1966) are painted in neutral tones and show subtle hints of figuration, with features resembling eyes. Over time, however, Woodman's works became increasingly whimsical. Erotic Burrito (1975), for example, is a stoneware form with a lipped opening that resembles a toasted burrito.

Style

After moving to New York City in 1980, Woodman's style shifted from functional pottery, towards a more experimental practice for which she is best known—critic Peter Schjeldahl has referred to Woodman's 'rough-and-tumble theatricality'.

Woodman often used the vase as a starting point for her works—a form which she viewed as the archetypal ceramic object and representative of the female body. She distorted its shape by adding extensions such as spouts, handles, and wings; cleaving unexpected planes, and painting surfaces with ornate patterns and images. For Pillow Pitcher (1983) Woodman fitted together two cylindrical pots, pinched closed their openings, and added a handle and spout before glazing it in a rainbow of colours.

Woodman's works became even more theatrical as she explored the possibilities of negative space and modes of display. Her installation House of the South (1996) stands at over four metres high and six metres long, and comprises an assemblage of colourful glazed ceramics and reliefs arranged in a dynamic composition.

Influences

The construction and ornamentation of Woodman's works contain a myriad of references to ancient and contemporary styles and traditions, including Greek and Etruscan sculpture, Egyptian art, Korean folk art, Tang dynasty ceramics, Italian Baroque architecture, and Islamic tiles.

For its innovative approach to abstraction and colour, Woodman's style is also often compared to that of painters Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, and Pierre Bonnard. Despite the frequent comparison she received to male modernists, Woodman maintained a critical feminist outlook throughout her artistic practice. At a period where the works of women potters were often viewed as 'craft', Woodman continued to defy and subvert such stereotypes, and sourced inspiration from other 'domestic' arts such as wallpapers, fabrics, and quilts.

Later Years

Woodman began painting on canvas in the early 2000s, and soon after began making hybrids of installation, painting, and sculpture. Several such works, including Summer Tea Party (2015–2016) and Olga's Room (2013), comprise large-scale, colourful paintings of domestic scenes with ceramics jutting from their surfaces. She also toyed with the illusion of dimension: the monumental Aeolian Pyramid (2001/2006) comprised 44 flattened, painted single-plane ceramics, arranged to resemble a choral formation. Aeolian Pyramid was presented at Woodman's 2006 retrospective, The Art of Betty Woodman at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York—Woodman's first U.S. retrospective.

Awards and Accolades

Woodman received numerous awards and honours in her lifetime, including the Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship at the Bellagio Study Center, Bellagio, Italy (1995); Fulbright-Hays Scholarship to Florence Italy (1996); Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts, Nova Scotia College of Art and Design (2006); Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters, University of Colorado Boulder (2007); Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts, Rhode Island School of Design (2009); and the Gold Medal for Consummate Craftmanship, American Craft Council (2014).

Exhibitions

Woodman's works have been the subject of solo and group exhibitions internationally.

Solo exhibitions include Shadows and Silhouettes, David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles (2019); The House and the Universe, K11 Art Foundation, Shanghai (2018); Theatre of the Domestic, Institute of Contemporary Arts, London (2016); Museo Marino Marini, Florence (2015); Places, Spaces & Things, Gardiner Museum, Toronto (2011); Roman Fresco/Pleasures and Places, American Academy in Rome, Rome (2010).

Group exhibitions include The Flames: The Age of Ceramics, Musée d'Art Moderne de Paris (2021); Less Is a Bore: Maximalist Art & Design, Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston (2019); and Liverpool Biennial of Contemporary Art, Liverpool (2016).

Collections

Woodman's work is held in numerous public collections worldwide, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Museu Nacional do Azulejo, Lisbon; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Museum of Modern Art, New York; National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto; Philadelphia Museum of Art; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; Victoria and Albert Museum, London; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; and the Icheon World Ceramics Center, Icheon, among others.

Galleries

Betty Woodman's estate is stewarded by the Woodman Family Foundation, and represented by David Kordansky Gallery.

Elliat Albrecht | Ocula | 2022

Betty Woodman
featured artworks

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Schifanoia by Betty Woodman contemporary artwork ceramics
Betty Woodman Schifanoia, c. 1985–1995 Glazed earthenware
43.5 x 61 x 17.1 cm
David Kordansky Gallery Request Price & Availability
Interior Vase with Flowers by Betty Woodman contemporary artwork works on paper, sculpture
Betty Woodman Interior Vase with Flowers, 2007 Glazed earthenware, epoxy resin, lacquer, and paint
72.4 x 102.9 x 20.3 cm
David Kordansky Gallery Request Price & Availability
Epidavros by Betty Woodman contemporary artwork works on paper, sculpture
Betty Woodman Epidavros, 1990 Glazed earthenware, epoxy resin, lacquer, and paint
68.6 x 109.2 x 20.3 cm
David Kordansky Gallery Request Price & Availability
Floating Beauty by Betty Woodman contemporary artwork works on paper, sculpture
Betty Woodman Floating Beauty, 1999 Glazed earthenware, epoxy resin, lacquer, and paint
68.6 x 142.2 x 26 cm
David Kordansky Gallery Request Price & Availability
Divided Vases: Stacked Vases by Betty Woodman contemporary artwork works on paper, sculpture
Betty Woodman Divided Vases: Stacked Vases, 2006 Glazed earthenware, epoxy resin, lacquer, and paint
87.6 x 80 x 16.5 cm
David Kordansky Gallery Request Price & Availability
The Sleeper by Betty Woodman contemporary artwork works on paper, sculpture
Betty Woodman The Sleeper, 1999 Glazed earthenware, epoxy resin, lacquer, and paint
71.1 x 132.1 x 20.3 cm
David Kordansky Gallery Request Price & Availability
Botanical Gardens by Betty Woodman contemporary artwork works on paper, sculpture
Betty Woodman Botanical Gardens, 2001 Glazed earthenware, epoxy resin, lacquer, and paint
72.4 x 170.2 x 18.1 cm
David Kordansky Gallery Request Price & Availability
Egyptian Diptych by Betty Woodman contemporary artwork works on paper, sculpture
Betty Woodman Egyptian Diptych, 1995 Glazed earthenware, epoxy resin, lacquer, and paint
71.1 x 132.1 x 20.3 cm
David Kordansky Gallery Request Price & Availability
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Betty Woodman
upcoming & recent
exhibitions

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Represented by this
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David Kordansky Gallery contemporary art gallery in Los Angeles, United States
David Kordansky Gallery Los Angeles, New York
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