From the ARchives

Francesca Woodman's BFA graduate exhibition at Woods-Gerry Hall Gallery, RISD, 1978: From the Archives...

Images L to R: All works by Francesca Woodman. Untitled (from Swan Song series), Providence, Rhode Island, 1978. Invitation by Francesca Woodman / Gelatin silver prints: 2) 39 1/2 x 44 in. 4) 35 1/4 x 33 in. / Installation views, Woods-Gerry Gallery, RISD, 1978 / Review by David K. Miller, 1978.

Francesca Woodman’s graduate exhibition as a student at the Rhode Island School of Design was held at the school’s Woods-Gerry Gallery in November 1978. She considered it a “swan song” to her time there as shown in her photocopied invitation. She reported on the opening in a letter to her friend Edith Schloss: “you would have enjoyed it i bought all these bird whistles that one fills with water and they warble in n.y. do you remember them from when you used to live there? anyway the room was very echoey with these things and i actually enjoyed the opening.”

"Though it was billed simply as photography, Francesca Woodman's show was liberally manipulated, sculpted and narrated…individual photographs contributed to an unfolding composition the way dream shapes and phrases precipitate a setting or presence,” a review in the student newspaper began. The exhibition included small photographs surrounding the perimeter of the room and a series of large-scale prints hung high and low on the wall. Francesca positioned herself in elaborate tableaux with stuffed birds, torn paper, and other props and photographed herself from above through a hole in the floor. The review continued:

“One print freezes Francesca’s motion, falling off the support: behind her, displayed as an attribute of her flight, is a single outstretched wing. The birds are little more distinct than stiff silhouettes and do not invite prolonged attention. More consequentially they are inactive, frozen like the photographic moment, while the woman is in flight. Francesca explores all corners of the space, using the table as if it were a parallel bar. Her movements have a quality of pure exhilaration rather than exhibitionism. In these prints the woman tests her physical, temporal boundaries.”

Click on the image above for a complete gallery view and details.