From the Archives

A look back

George Woodman, born on this day in 1932: From the Archives...

"At age fourteen I decided to become an artist, ambition enough for my life,” George Woodman once wrote. And over the next seven decades, he did just that, working fervently as a painter and photographer, and also as a writer and professor. Today, we celebrate George, who was born on this day in 1932!

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L to R: All artworks by Betty Woodman. Images 1-2: Installation views of “Horizontal Garden” (2005), The Great Hall, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2006. 29 x 32 x 18 in. Glazed earthenware / Installation view of “The Art of Betty Woodman,” The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY, April 25—July 30, 2006. Photographs by Eli Ping.
Installation view of Betty Woodman's “Horizontal Garden” (2005), The Great Hall, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2006. 29 x 32 x 18 in. Glazed earthenware. Photograph by Eli Ping.
Betty Woodman, Met Vases, 2006: From the Archives...

Spring flowers always remind us of Betty Woodman, and particularly her vases in the Great Hall of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which greeted visitors to the museum with their bold colors, overlapping patterns and allusions to vases and gardens, holding an ever-changing display of seasonal blooms. They were installed on the occasion of her 2006 retrospective there—the first time the museum dedicated such an exhibition to a living woman artist.

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George Woodman, Spectrum Gallery, 1970: From the Archives...

Fifty-two years ago this week would have been your last chance to see George Woodman’s solo exhibition at Spectrum Gallery in New York City. Woodman’s canvases and prints during this period were characterized by fields of interlocking, repetitive shapes, which, as Robert Berlind later described: “may be seen as a reprise of the transition earlier in the century from a still-descriptive cubism to a “purer” non-referentiality. These paintings are equally in keeping with the contemporaneous interests of Op Art and made a crucial contribution to the Criss-Cross movement which flourished in the 70’s in Boulder and had an impact on the New York scene.”

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Betty Woodman's trip to Fiesole, Italy, 1951-52: From the Archives...

Betty Woodman first traveled to Italy in 1951, on the suggestion of her friends Grace and John Tagliabue who invited her to join them there. She spent the year in Fiesole, renting a room on a hillside overlooking Florence and its Duomo and working in a pottery studio owned by painter Giorgio Ferrero and sculptor Lionello Fallacara.

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L to R: Images 1-3: Processing George Woodman’s paper tiles in our archive, 2022 / Images 4-5: George Woodman’s paper tile installation, Denver Art Museum, 1980 / Images 6-7: George Woodman’s paper tile installation, unknown location, 1981.
Processing George Woodman’s paper tiles in our archive, 2022.
George Woodman's paper tiles, 1980-81: From the Archives...

Although the Woodman Family Foundation archives are starting to take shape, there is still much more material to process before we are ready to open them up to scholars and researchers. Currently, we are processing George Woodman’s paper tiles and related plans, descriptions and documentation so that we can better understand this key aspect of his practice, which took his work with pattern off the canvas and into space and situation.

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L to R: All artworks by George Woodman. “Cannon," 1980. 66 x 66 in. Acrylic paint on canvas / Images 2-6: Pages from the exhibition catalogue for “19 Artists—Emergent Americans,” The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York / "La Grande Fontaine du Printemps," 1980. 85 x 84 in. Acrylic paint on canvas / "Tessellation Sky,” 1975. 54 1/2 x 54 1/2 in. Acrylic paint on canvas. Collection The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum.
George Woodman. “Cannon," 1980. 66 x 66 in. Acrylic paint on canvas.
George Woodman, "19 Artists—Emergent Americans," The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, 1981: From the Archives...

Forty-one years ago, 19 Artists—Emergent Americans was presented at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York featuring seven paintings by George Woodman, among work by eighteen of his contemporaries including Barbara Kruger, Guy de Cointet, and Manny Farber. The exhibition reflected curator Peter Frank’s desire to present the artists’ work as a series of small retrospectives. “What I have sought to assemble at the Guggenheim Museum is the skilled and confident visual articulation of engrossing ideas by individuals who have not been sufficiently recognized for their accomplishment,” he wrote.

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Betty Woodman's slide collection: From the Archives...

Hi, this is Molly McBride Jacobson, archives intern at the Woodman Family Foundation. One of my projects has been inventorying, condensing, and rehousing Betty Woodman’s slide collection, which she used to document her work from the 1970s until the mid-2000s. She used this collection as a pre-digital database, arranging her slides by year and then separately by format.

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George Woodman's trip from Boston, MA to Albuquerque, NM: From the Archives...

In the summer of 1954, recent college graduate George Woodman set out from Boston towards Albuquerque, New Mexico. He had a degree in philosophy, and a desire to study painting in a more concentrated way than he had been able to do as an undergraduate student supplementing his Harvard education with art courses at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts Boston. He and Betty Woodman—who had been married just a year—followed this set of Triptik maps across the country, carefully tracking miles and expenses along the way until they arrived at the University of New Mexico.

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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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