Monday, 15 February 2016

Review of Betty Woodman: Theatre of the Domestic at ICA, London

Betty Woodman: Theatre of the Domestic
ICA, London
3 February – 10 April 2016

Betty Woodman (b1930) began working with clay as a teenager. Adopting the utilitarian form of the vase as her subject, she initially got her husband, George – then a painter, now a photographer – to paint her finished pieces. “There’s a form,” she says, “and then the way you paint on it changes the way you perceive it.” Looking for example, at Posing with Vases at the Beach (2008) – two large vases painted, on one side, with nude figures such that they become bodies – this couldn’t be better exemplified: in Woodman’s hands, a functional vessel is turned into a figurative sculpture.

Having spent many years championing ceramics, Woodman now talks equally easily of the joys of painting. When George stopped adding to her pieces, she left them unpainted for a while, but then began to develop her own gestural style. Today, this combination of forming and painting, combining 2D with 3D, is what makes Woodman’s work stand out. Her anthropomorphic creations play both on the object/image dichotomy and the age-old equivalence of pot to body, reflected in the terminology of the pot’s parts: lip, mouth, shoulder, belly and foot.

In 2006, Woodman, who lives and works in New York City and Antella, Italy, spending six months of the year in each, was the first living woman to have a major career retrospective at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Her current exhibition at the ICA, London – Theatre of the Domestic – is her first UK solo presentation.

Read the rest of this review here

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