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Betty Woodman

Betty Woodman, "Wallpaper 16," 2017: STAFF PICKS

Ryan Brady, Collections Manager: Betty Woodman was an artist whose pragmatism seemingly stood in contrast to the loose comfort of her artistic style, but those of us who knew her well understood this sensibility as an asset to her prolific output. She kept things. Her Wallpaper pieces, which I had the privilege of closely working with her on during my time as her studio assistant from 2011 until her passing in 2018, resulted from her instinct to put all her materials to use.

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L to R: Betty Woodman with Joyce Kozloff, 1981. Photo by Sylvia Plachy / 2-4: Betty Woodman, collaboration with Joyce Kozloff. “Cups," (3 of 12), 1980. 5 in. diameter / "Chrysanthemum Vase," 1980. 14 in / “Purple Toucan Pitcher,” 1980. 17 in. All glazed earthenware / 5-7: Betty Woodman, collaboration with Cynthia Carlson. Installation views, "An Interior Exchanged,” ArtisanSpace, Fashion Institute of Technology, New York, 1982. Dimensions variable. All paint and glazed ceramic.
Betty Woodman with Joyce Kozloff, 1981. Photo by Sylvia Plachy
Betty Woodman, collaborations with Joyce Kozloff and Cynthia Carlson: From the Archives...

In the early 1980s, as Betty Woodman moved into a New York City loft with her husband, George Woodman, and began to shift her functional practice towards ceramic sculpture, she became friends with many artists deeply involved with the Pattern and Decoration movement. She collaborated with two of them: Joyce Kozloff and Cynthia Carlson.‍ With Kozloff, Woodman made ceramic forms—whether cups and saucers, pitchers or trays—which Kozloff then decorated with rich patterns inspired by Islamic tiles and motifs. The resulting works, which dissolve the line between craft and art, were shown in exhibitions at Tibor de Nagy Gallery and the Queens Museum in 1981.

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Our archives intern Molly McBride Jacobson digs into unsorted family photographs from our archives: From the Archives...

The Woodman Family Foundation archives include boxes and boxes of family photographs, spanning the early days George and Betty spent in Albuquerque where they welcomed their son Charlie into the world; to their move to a modernist home in Boulder—the site of many birthday parties, pottery sales, impromptu installations of paintings and Francesca’s earliest experiments with “dress up;” until just a few years ago enjoying breakfast with their grandson Alexander in both New York and Antella.

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Betty Woodman in "The Flames: The Age of Ceramics" at Musee d'Art Moderne de Paris, Paris, France, October 15, 2021-February 6, 2022

"The Flames" takes a transhistorical approach to ceramics to assert the critical relationship of clay to both art and humankind. The exhibition combines ancient objects dating back to the Neolithic with those made by contemporary artists—including Betty Woodman—and everything in between.

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All images related to Betty Woodman’s “Bronze Bench #3,” 2003. 57 x 62 x 16 in. Bronze, patina. From L to R: clay models for bronze benches outside Betty’s studio in Antella, Italy / Benches in progress at the Fonderia with Betty’s full-scale drawing / Applying the patina according to Betty’s drawing / The finished bench arrives at Betty’s studio in Antella / Installation view in the courtyard of the Palazzo Pitti, Museo delle Porcellane, Florence, Italy, 2010 / Installation view, “Betty Woodman: In the Garden,” Greenwood Gardens, Short Hills, New Jersey, 2016 / Betty outside of her studio in Antella.
Clay models for Betty Woodman's bronze benches outside Betty’s studio in Antella, Italy, c. 2003.
Betty Woodman's functional bronze sculptures: From the Archives...

On occasion, Betty Woodman translated her abiding interest in the subject of function into materials other than clay, always pushing the possibilities of a particular medium. In 1999, she began an ongoing collaboration with Fonderia Artistica Belfiore in Pietrasanta, Italy, an idea which came from a conversation with her longtime gallerist, Max Protetch and was in part inspired by fellow gallery artist Scott Burton’s sculptural furniture, as well as the formal Italian gardens she had spent decades exploring.

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L to R: Entrance to the Woodman family’s farmhouse adorned with a Pillow Pitcher by Betty atop a wall of George’s “sgraffito,” 2017 / View of the olive groves from Betty’s studio, 2004 / Betty cutting well-tended roses growing against the wall next to her studio, 2008 / Betty making flower arrangements with roses, dahlias and gerbera daisies from her garden, 2006 / Betty putting fresh flowers in a group of her “Vase and Stand” works, 1984 / Betty, a young family friend, and Francesca, c. late 1960s / Table set for dinner, 2016, photo by Brigid McCaffrey / Generous bowls and baskets full of figs, plums, peaches, grapes, and tomatoes, 2016 / Betty, Charlie and Francesca cooking together, c. early 1970s / George at his studio door, 2006 / A view out from the same door, 2008 / Francesca and Betty holding their bunnies, c. 1968 / Charlie on his motorino, c. late 1960s / Betty and friend with Betty’s triptych “June in Italy” (2001), c. 2001 / George with his sculpture, c. early 1970s / he Woodman family’s patio with potted geraniums and the olive grove in view, c. 1990s / Morning glories climbing George’s “sgrafitto” wall, c. 1990s.
L to R: Entrance to the Woodman family’s farmhouse adorned with a Pillow Pitcher by Betty atop a wall of George’s “sgraffito,” 2017 / George with his sculpture, c. early 1970s / Betty, Charlie and Francesca cooking together, c. early 1970s / Betty cutting well-tended roses growing against the wall next to her studio, 2008.
AUGUST IN ANTELLA

Beginning in the summer of 1968, the Woodman Family spent every summer at their stone farmhouse in Antella, Italy, just outside of Florence. As children, Charlie and Francesca joined their parents and later visited on their own, soaking in Italian culture and influences. Betty and George made some of their most important artistic breakthroughs there—a place George once described as "an artist residency for two.” All summer long, their garden produced abundant food and flowers—the tomatoes were particularly good in August, happily shared with frequent visitors.

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Envelope for letter from George Woodman in Boulder, Colorado to Francesca Woodman in Rome, Italy, October 19, 1977.
Envelope for letter from George Woodman in Boulder, Colorado to Francesca Woodman in Rome, Italy, October 19, 1977.
Betty Woodman, Francesca Woodman, and George Woodman in “Interior Scroll or What I Did on My Vacation” at S&S Corner Shop, The Art Building, Springs, New York, July 24-September 26, 2021

OPENING TOMORROW: Betty Woodman, Francesca Woodman, and George Woodman in “Interior Scroll or What I did on My Vacation” at S&S Corner Shop, The Art Building, Springs, New York. On view July 24 through September 26, 2021. Organized by Soft Network. We are pleased to announce that this exhibition includes a selection of correspondence written between Betty, Francesca and George Woodman in 1978, as well as Francesca Woodman’s “Selected Video Works,” 1976-1978.

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Saul Steinberg show announcement from George Woodman to Betty Woodman, 1952: From the Archives...

George Woodman and Betty Abrahams wrote each other regularly beginning soon after they met in 1951—while Betty was at home in Newton, MA and later in Fiesole, Italy and George at home in Concord, NH or at school at Harvard in Cambridge, MA—until they married in 1953. In 1952, after a trip to New York and a visit to an exhibition of drawings by Saul Steinberg (fellow lover of cats, who drew them frequently), George sent Betty this show announcement, remarking “these wonderful cats I got for you when I was in N.Y.”

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Betty Woodman in “With Pleasure: Pattern and Decoration in American Art 1972-1985” at Hessel Museum of Art, Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, New York, June 26 - November 28, 2021

This ambitious exhibition, curated by Anna Katz, brings together American artists, including Betty Woodman, associated with the Pattern and Decoration movement in the first such comprehensive and scholarly survey. The exhibition showcases painting, sculpture, collage, ceramics, installation and performance which embraced craft-based and decorative traditions and approached art-making from a sometimes dizzying appreciation of historic sources and feminist aesthetics.

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The Woodman family explores Italy, circa 1959-60 and 1965-66: From the Archives...

The Woodman family’s lifelong love of Italy began in 1951 with Betty’s yearlong apprenticeship in Fiesole. After marrying in 1953, Betty and George took their young children, Charles and Francesca, for extended stays in 1959-60 and again in 1965-66.

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An invitation to friends from George for Betty Woodman's 60th birthday party, 1990: From the Archives...

"Let us celebrate!”—as George Woodman and friends did on this day in 1990, fêting Betty Woodman for her 60th birthday at their Chelsea loft.

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L to R: Betty Woodman. “Bellagio drawing #15,” 1995. 59.5 x 74.5 inches. Terra sigilatta, graphite, wax on thai mulberry paper / Album of snapshots Betty took while a resident at the Bellagio Study Center, Italy / Betty Woodman. “Bellagio drawing #17,” 1995. 37 x 88 inches. Terra sigilatta, graphite, wax on thai mulberry paper / Installation view "Betty Woodman,” Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, 1996.
Betty Woodman. “Bellagio drawing #15,” 1995. 59.5 x 74.5 inches. Terra sigilatta, graphite, wax on thai mulberry paper.
Betty Woodman's residency at the Bellagio Study Center, Italy, 1995: From the Archives...

Betty Woodman’s month-long residency at the Bellagio Study Center in 1995 on a Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship provided her the time and space to begin a formally complex, mixed-media “drawing” practice which continued for the rest of her life, later influencing her iconic painted canvas and ceramic wall works.

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