Betty Woodman (1930–2018) is recognized as one of the most important voices in postwar American art, having synthesized sculpture, painting, and ceramics in a highly original and immediately recognizable formal vocabulary. Her embodied readings of a diversity of ancient and modern art historical traditions, as well as her fearless pursuits of visual pleasure, posited her as a boldly contemporary figure whose work proves revelatory in discussions about gender, modernism, craft, architecture, and domesticity. She began as a precocious studio potter in the 1950s; over the subsequent decades, she created a radical new vision of how ceramics could function in a contemporary art context. Beginning in the early 2000s, she took on the legacies of Modernist masters like Matisse and Picasso in increasingly direct fashion, incorporating canvas in multimedia works and rendering interior scenes with the breadth and drama of epic history painting.
Betty Woodman was born in Norwalk, Connecticut, raised in Newton, Massachusetts, and studied ceramics at the School for American Craftsmen in Alfred, New York from 1948 to 1950. Woodman was the subject of numerous solo exhibitions worldwide during her lifetime, including a 2006 retrospective at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York—the first time the museum dedicated a survey to a living female artist. In 2022, David Kordansky Gallery presented the first major exhibition of Betty Woodman's work in New York in six years, Betty Woodman: Conversations on the Shore, Works from the 1990s. Other solo shows have been presented at K11 Art Foundation, Hong Kong (2018); Institute of Contemporary Arts, London (2016); Museo Marino Marini, Florence, Italy (2015); Gardiner Museum, Toronto (2011); American Academy in Rome (2010); Palazzo Pitti, Giardino di Boboli, Florence, Italy (2009); Denver Art Museum (2006); and Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (1996). Recent group exhibitions include The Flames: The Age of Ceramics, Musée d’Art Moderne de Paris (2021–2022); Less Is a Bore: Maximalist Art & Design, Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston (2019); and Liverpool Biennial, England (2016). Woodman’s work is in numerous permanent collections worldwide, including The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Museu Nacional do Azulejo, Lisbon, Portugal; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Museum of Modern Art, New York; National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto, Japan; Philadelphia Museum of Art; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; Victoria and Albert Museum, London; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, and World Ceramic Center, Incheon, Korea. Woodman lived and worked in Boulder, Colorado; Antella, Italy; and New York.
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