Francesca Woodman: The Girl Stays in the Picture

Mar 15, 2013 4:13PM

Since her death in 1981, Francesca Woodman’s photographs have been studied and celebrated for their critical dialogue with the history of art, examination of the body in relation to the space occupied and the complexities of self-portraiture. While her life and career were short, her distinct body of work reveals her quick and impressive evolution as a photographer with varying influences from Surrealism to Conceptualism and Post-minimal art.

Predominantly using herself as subject, they are less portraits, more explorations or performances that reveal the intense curiosity – and precocious talent – of a young woman. Exploring how the body interacts with the space around it, the performative nature of her work has inspired posthumous comparison with feminist artists such as Claude Cahun and Hannah Wilke.

The photographs that Woodman made in Providence while a student at the Rhode Island School of Design illustrate the beginnings of the many ideas and practices that she would more fully realize while studying abroad in Rome in 1977-1978. While these works were some of the most straight forward self-portraits that we have of Woodman, they also allude to her interest in the transient nature of the figure in space. The mimicking of the fabric on her dress and on the wall behind her create a sense that her body is caught between two planes - neither in the foreground nor the background but hovering in the space between. This is a visual concept that she will take even further in her later works as her nude figure literally fades against the textured walls of her surroundings.

Untitled, Providence, Rhode Island, 1975-1978 will be offered in our Photographs sale, 2-3 April 2013, in New York.

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