Betty Woodman - Shadows and Silhouettes

27 Jun 2019 – 24 Aug 2019

Regular hours

10:00 – 18:00
10:00 – 18:00
10:00 – 18:00
10:00 – 18:00
10:00 – 18:00

Save Event: Betty Woodman - Shadows and Silhouettes

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David Kordansky Gallery is pleased to announce Shadows and Silhouettes, an exhibition of sculptures and paintings by Betty Woodman (1930-2018).


he artist’s first solo show in a gallery since her death, the exhibition will feature works made between 2008 and 2016, and will focus on thematic and formal issues––creative use of negative space, two- and three-dimensional representations of vessels, the hybridization of vessel and human figurative forms––that were central to her project throughout her career.

Shadows and Silhouettes features 12 works Woodman made over the last decade of her life, when she was executing some of her most radical experiments. The exhibition juxtaposes varied works in which painted and sculpted forms are repeated and reversed, and in which outlines of objects carve out negative spaces that re-appear as pictures either on canvases or glazed onto the objects themselves. They range from classic pedestal-based sculptures like the diptych His and Hers Vases: Life Drawing (2008)––whose standing and reclining female nudes are painted with black and white glazes on vertically- and horizontally-oriented vases––to the Cubist complexity of Aztec Vase & Carpet: Mariana (2015), whose canvas "base" and dynamic, four-winged vessel provide surfaces for a continuously painted and glazed composition of alternating dark and light squares, among other motifs.

For Woodman, pictorial and sculptural versions of space were in constant conversation with one another. These conversations could be harmonious, dissonant, humorous, or soaring and poetic, depending on their context. The Chapel, a large painting with ceramic relief elements from 2011, is in the latter mode: flat ceramic elements, glazed a brilliant white, are arranged on the wall so that they resemble tall, multipart vases. The canvas on which they hang has been painted with slashing white brushstrokes against a black background. This optically dynamic play of two-dimensional volumes is accentuated by the dramatic three-dimensional composition defining the work's upper third, where a vessel with bright red glazing sits on a white shelf and another group of relief objects hover over the illusionistic, painted rendition of a room characterized with an intense red floor and yellow walls.

As her project began to move beyond the constraints of functional ceramics in the 1970s, she began to explore––and explode––archetypal associations between the vessel and the human body. She envisioned her objects, as well as the pictures of vases she painted on and around them, as players in theatrical scenes. Each work became a domestic drama (or comedy) whose narrative is told in colours, shapes, textures, and patterns. Late in her career such narratives took on uncanny dimensions, especially in the paintings, with the silhouettes of three-dimensional vessels repeated on canvases behind them. 

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Betty Woodman


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