Wednesday, December 20, 2006Home

Francesca Woodman featured in a self-titled retrospective

The Denver Post has an article about Francesca Woodman, her short-lived career in photography, and the retrospective, titled Francesca Woodman, that has been released through Phaidon Press. Woodman took her own life at 22 (she jumped to her death in 1981) and left behind a collection of surreal images, most of which featured the photographer as the sole human figure. It's often easy to call such work by troubled young minds megalomaniacal; according to the testimony featured in this book, however, Woodman possessed a great deal of self-doubt, and was frustrated by being unable to use any other models in her images. From the Denver Post's article:

"'Francesca was ashamed that she took so many pictures of herself and irritated by the simplistic self-portrait label attached to her work,' Betsy Berne, a close friend, wrote in an essay in the book. 'She tried using models over and over - but the reality was she was her own best model because she alone knew what she was after.'"

Woodman came from a family of artists, with her father, George Woodman, being a professor at the University of Colorado. The photograph "Francesca Woodman and George Woodman," featured on the Post's article, shows father and daughter together. They regard one another with a familiarity that is all but absent in many of Woodman's images, where ideas of the human form, lighting, and perspective are toyed with, often in complex visual illusions. The book features 250 images by Woodman, as well as diary entries and commentary from those who knew her best.

"When Woodman died, changing trends were already overshadowing her. A new breed of post-modern artists driven by mass culture, including Cindy Sherman, Richard Prince and Sherrie Levine, were uprooting photography and exploiting it for very different purposes.

"While Woodman had a foot in this conceptualist camp, she was also very much attached to traditional photography, using techniques little different from the 19th century to fastidiously create and print her images.

This is the first fully comprehensive retrospective of Woodman's photography. There has never been a touring exhibition of her work in the US, but those involved with making this collection a reality are optimistic.

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