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Los Angeles’s David Kordansky Gallery gives Betty Woodman her first retrospective in years

The posthumous survey traces the artist’s trajectory, from classic pottery to wildly dramatic forms

Betty Woodman, A Single Joy of Song (2017) Courtesy of Charles Woodman / The Estate of Betty Woodman and David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles, CA

It was not meant to be a posthumous show. But this summer, David Kordansky Gallery in Los Angeles will be staging the first survey of the American ceramic artist Betty Woodman in over a decade, and the first big show in the US since her death in January. The gallery’s director Stuart Krimko, who curated the show with works from the estate, some for sale and others on loan, said that planning was well underway while the artist—better known to some as photographer Francesca Woodman’s mother—was still alive.

The show (running 21 July-25 August) will span six decades and capture her shift to ceramics not fit for a table. “It will start out with small vases and pots including Etruscan-inspired pieces of the 60s,” Krimko says, “and then see where she started to pull away from functionality, from the pieces she nicknamed ‘erotic burritos’ to the first forms she made for the wall.” The erotic burritos are squat, puffy-looking vessels that prefigure her boldly colored “pillow pitchers” of later years.

Krimko predicts the show will be a revelation for younger artists who don't know the full arc of her work. Will the show in any way include her famous daughter? “No, this is really about Betty,” Krimko said, “and her amazing, protean, radical love of beauty.”

Betty Woodman, Persian Pillow Pitcher #1 (1975-1976) Photo: John White. Courtesy of Charles Woodman / The Estate of Betty Woodman and David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles, CA