Francesca Woodman – Works from the Sammlung Verbund

Until the 21st of Mai are Francesca Woodman’s photographs to be seen at the Vertical Gallery at Verbund headquarter in Vienna. The American Photographer is one of those artists whose work appears at first sight to be of striking simplicity, but one immediately leaves this thought for one thing, due to the controversy that soon will appear in the eyes and mind of the viewer; a controversy that has to do with complexity.

For once, Francesca Woodman did mostly self-portraits[1]. Starting with “Self-Portrait at Thirteen”, her work developed over a period of 8 Years. Not just a short time for creating, but the context of creation also (Woodman was also a student at Rhode Island School of Design from 1975 to 1979)- undergoing the process of transition from adolescents to adulthood- add interesting points to the reading of her work, sometimes maybe not to her advantage. As Jilian Steinhauer notes: “Women artist s are perpetually shoehorned into the ‘art as life’ equation; their biographies dismissively used to explain their work”[2] . To this extent, maybe her suicide acts as a limit, for the audience that Woodman never intended [3](Woodman died at the age of 22, by throwing herself of a window).

Widely regarded as an artist working with (and about) gender, Woodman’s work- as mentioned above-produced in the period of transition to adulthood, kindly fits under the rubric of adolescence [4](due to its not yet defined gender) .It also kindly fits to ‘advanced’ Feminism, to Photography as medium and as recording device, bringing with it the problem of Space and Time, seeing herself through and as photographic image! This is the complexity I was mentioning in the beginning.

The exhibition at Verbund comes with a guided tour, so don’t miss the chance to know more about this amazing Woman (don’t forget, today is Woman’s Day!).


[1] As stated by the author of the book Francesca Woodman and the Kantian sublime (Ashgate Publishing Limited), Claire Raymond: „I have called Woodman’s photographs of herself “self-portraits” for straightforward reasons […], Woodman very frequently engages the self-portrait genre: the images do not invoke narrative content that suspends the significance of the gaze of the photographer turned on herself. […] Woodman engages the gesture of the self-looking at the self without entwining that gesture through other stably marked generic signifiers, even as she estranges the self-portrait from generic expectation.”

[2] From Isabela Pedicini’s book Francesca Woodman the Roman Years: between flesh and film (Contrasto)

[3] Also from Claire Raymond, Francesca Woodman and the Kantian sublime (Ashgate Publishing Limited)

[4] Ibid.(Carol Mauer)

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