September 4, 2015 - Moderna Museet - Francesca Woodman
September 4, 2015

Francesca Woodman

Francesca Woodman, On Being an Angel # 1, Providence, Rhode Island, 1977. © Betty and George Woodman.

Francesca Woodman
On Being an Angel

5 September–6 December 2015

Moderna Museet

Curator: Anna Tellgren

Moderna Museet’s first exhibition this autumn features the American photographer Francesca Woodman, whose body of work has been the subject of numerous in-depth studies and major exhibitions in recent years. Her photography has inspired generations of artists and photographers around the world. Woodman has been called a prodigy, and those who met her testify to her as a young woman who was always working and looking for themes and material for her photographs. Examining Francesca Woodman’s aesthetic oeuvre is a challenge and an adventure.

Francesca Woodman’s (1958–1981) photographs explore gender, representation and body. Her aesthetic world reveals surrealist influences, with frequent use of mirrors, doubles, shadows, masks, and sexual symbols, bringing to mind the works of photographers such as Hans Bellmer, Claude Cahun and Man Ray. Woodman’s production includes several portraits using herself and her friends as models. The intimate nature of the subject matter is enhanced by the small formats. Transformation emerges as a theme in many of Woodman’s images, for example in one of her strongest and eeriest series, “House” from 1976, in which she gradually merges with the walls, the torn wallpaper and the open fireplace.

“Francesca Woodman created a body of fascinating photographic works in a few intense years before her premature death. Her images reference history and the history of photography, but they also reflect their time, while unlocking new interpretations. She is deeply personal, and so her themes become universal. All of this is what On Being an Angel is about,” says curator Anna Tellgren.

Francesca Woodman began photographing in her teens and studied at the Rhode Island School of Design from 1975 to 1978. Her output is usually divided into five periods: from her early works, her years as a student in Providence, in Italy (1977–78), at the MacDowell Colony, and, lastly, in New York from 1979 until she died. Analyses of her work are often linked to her biography and chronology. During her active years, Woodman produced thousands of images and she also tried other techniques such as large-format diazotypes, colour photography and video. Some eight hundred photographs have been preserved. 

The exhibition Francesca Woodman. On Being an Angel is comprised of 102 photographs and one video by Francesca Woodman, and selections from most of her thematic groups and series are represented, including Polka Dots (1976), the From Angel series (1977), Swan Song (1978), Charlie the Model (1976–77) and her large Caryatid (Study for a Temple Project) (1980). In Woodman’s active years in the late 1970s and early 1980s, photography was in a period of transition. Many photographers who had worked with classic black and white photography were experimenting with other forms, pushing the documentary tradition towards more subjective and surrealist projects. Alongside the exhibition, Moderna Museet will present a selection of photography from the same period from its collection, to show Francesca Woodman in context.

A catalogue will be compiled for the exhibition Francesca Woodman. On Being an Angel including all the photographs shown and new essays by the writer Anna-Karin Palm, the curator Anna Tellgren, and Francesca Woodman’s father, the artist George Woodman.

The exhibition is produced by Moderna Museet and will also be shown at Moderna Museet in Malmö on 5 November 2016−19 March 2017, after touring internationally to:
Foam Photography Museum, Amsterdam, 17 December 2015–9 March 2016
Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson, Paris, 9 May–31 July 2016
(Additional venues to be announced.)

Francesca Woodman at Moderna Museet
Moderna Museet
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