Betty Woodman (1930–2018) is recognized as one of the most important voices in postwar American art, having synthesized sculpture, painting, and ceramics in a highly original and immediately recognizable formal vocabulary. Her embodied readings of a diversity of ancient and modern art historical traditions, as well as her fearless pursuits of visual pleasure, posited her as a boldly contemporary figure whose work proves revelatory in discussions about gender, modernism, craft, architecture, and domesticity. She began as a precocious studio potter in the 1950s; over the subsequent decades, she created a radical new vision of how ceramics could function in a contemporary art context. Beginning in the early 2000s, she took on the legacies of Modernist masters like Matisse and Picasso in increasingly direct fashion, incorporating canvas in multimedia works and rendering interior scenes with the breadth and drama of epic history painting.
David Kordansky Gallery New York will present Betty Woodman: Conversations from the Shore, Works from the 1990s, the first major solo exhibition of the artist’s work in New York in six years. On view October 28 through December 17, this exhibition brings together a group of ceramic sculptures from a critical and career-defining period in Woodman’s practice. Anchored by the installation Conversations on the Shore (1994)—last shown in the late 1990s as part of an exhibition tour that originated at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam—the works on view will include a number of wall-mounted and free-standing sculptures, each engaged in a range of conversations about materials, art history, function, architecture, sculpture, and painting. Betty Woodman: Conversations on the Shore, Works from the 1990s marks the gallery's first presentation of the artist’s work in collaboration with the Woodman Family Foundation since announcing the representation of her estate earlier this year.
Betty Woodman was born in Norwalk, Connecticut, raised in Newton, Massachusetts, and studied ceramics at the School for American Craftsmen in Alfred, New York from 1948 to 1950. She was the subject of numerous solo exhibitions worldwide during her lifetime, including a 2006 retrospective at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York—the first time the museum dedicated a survey to a living female artist. Other solo shows have been presented at K11 Art Foundation, Hong Kong (2018); Institute of Contemporary Arts, London (2016); Museo Marino Marini, Florence, Italy (2015); Gardiner Museum, Toronto (2011); American Academy in Rome (2010); Palazzo Pitti, Giardino di Boboli, Florence, Italy (2009); Denver Art Museum (2006); and Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (1996). Recent group exhibitions include The Flames: The Art 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, England (2016). Woodman’s work is in numerous permanent collections worldwide, including The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Museu Nacional do Azulejo, Lisbon, Portugal; 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, Japan; Philadelphia Museum of Art; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; Victoria and Albert Museum, London; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, and World Ceramic Center, Incheon, Korea. Woodman lived and worked in Boulder, Colorado; Antella, Italy; and New York.