Exhibition Photos by David Heald © Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation
The first comprehensive survey of work from the extremely brief but prolific career of American photographer Francesca Woodman (1958-1981) to be shown in North America is now on view at the Guggenheim Museum (through June 13, 2012).
More than thirty years after Woodman’s suicide at the age of 22–often one of the first things people recall about the artist–the exhibition offers an occasion for the “historical reconsideration of her work and its reception.”
Over 120 vintage photographs on view were culled from her estate of 800 prints and over 10,000 negatives, which is managed by her parents. They span her early experimental responses to class assignments completed while she was still enrolled at RISD in the mid-seventies, to the large-scale blueprint studies of her Temple project from 1980. The exhibition also includes six of her recently discovered and rarely seen short videos, as well as two of her artist books.
Her black-and-white images, dark, ethereal and moody, softened and blurred through the use of a long exposure time, are remarkably coherent explorations of herself, and sometimes other women, in very particular environments.
The Times‘ Ken Johnson calls it a “borderline kitschy style, a heady mix of Victorian Gothic, Surrealism and 19th-century spirit photography,” exploring the non-documentary realm of photography in a manner reminiscent of some of her contemporaries, including Cindy Sherman.
They were taken mostly with a medium format 6×6 camera and printed at 8×10″ or smaller, adding a timeless or antique quality, and necessitating a physically intimate viewing experience.
So “strong, particular, personal and tragic,” is her work, British art dealer Anthony d’Offay, who acquired 18 of her prints from the artist’s boyfriend, says in a video interview, “that you have to confront elements of yourself which perhaps sometimes you’ve avoided.”
On Friday, May 18, 2012, the Guggenheim is hosting a symposium on “Art in the 1970s: Through the Lens of Francesca Woodman,” examining the relationship between the still and moving image in Woodman’s and other artists’ production during the 1970s, particularly as associated with Post-Minimalism, performance, and video, organized by Jennifer Blessing, Senior Curator, Photography.
Francesca Woodman is organized by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, where the exhibition was on view earlier this year. You can find a video walkthrough of that show shot on January 2, 2012 on YouTube.
Read more about Woodman’s “deeply personal photographic revelations” in critic David Levi Strauss’ Between the Eyes: Essays on Photography and Politics (Aperture 2003).
Exhibition on view:
March 13 – June 13, 2012
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
1071 Fifth Avenue
(at 89th Street)
New York, NY 10128-0173