Betty Woodman: Theatre of the Domestic, ICA London

February 3 – April 10, 2016

In Spring 2016, the ICA presents the first UK solo presentation of works by Betty Woodman (born 1930), one of the most important contemporary artists working with ceramics today. The exhibition focuses on work Woodman has created in the last ten years, including a number of major new mixed media pieces.
Betty Woodman began making work in 1950 with clay as her chosen medium, and throughout her practice has constantly explored new directions and introduced new techniques and media. Woodman's conceptual boldness and her ambitious experimentation – in which she combines such unlikely materials as lacquer paint on earthenware and terra sigillata, a slip glaze often used on ancient ceramics, on paper - have generated a unique series of innovations. Significantly the ways in which she combines ceramics and painting in her three-dimensional works, resonates with younger generations of artists.
All her work relates to her ceramics, their decorative design, imagery and unusual use of various media, and can be seen as a way of exploring her painterly sensibility. For many years she has focused on the vase, which over time has become her most salient subject. For Woodman, the vase can be a vessel, a human body, and animal figure, a metaphor, or an art-historical reference. Painting, particularly in recent years, plays a key role in the work of Betty Woodman. Her later works are large, colourful drawings and paintings on handmade paper or canvas that combine graphite, ink and lacquer with terra sigillata and wax. Her work alludes to and blends numerous sources, including Minoan and Egyptian art, Greek and Etruscan sculpture, Tang Dynasty works, majolica and Sèvres porcelain, Italian Baroque architecture, and the paintings of Bonnard, Picasso and Matisse.
The ICA exhibition follows her first solo museum show in Italy, at the Museo Marino Marini in Florence which is the artist’s second home and where she has been living and working for six months of every year for over fifty years. Although each exhibition will have a bespoke selection of works, they will both focus on her recent production, especially works made after 2006, the year of her major retrospective at the Metropolitan Museum in New York, while taking stock of her continued relevance to contemporary art and her importance among post-World War II artists.

photos: Mark Blower