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Betty Woodman's sculptures and ceramics bring beauty back to the art world.
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Out of all of the art exhibitions in Chelsea gallery’s right now Betty Woodman show at Max Protégé Gallery stands out a mile for its sheer exuberant beauty. 30 years ago Betty Woodman ruffled some feathers by daring to blur the boundaries between ceramics and fine arts sculpture and painting.
Now that younger artist are routinely working in different media at once the real pressing question becomes why such a visual pleasure is so rare in today’s art world. Bold colors contrasting patterns and shapes that echo cubist and futurist collage gives us working almost physical energy.
The shows best work reverts some of Woodman’s signature his and her vessel forms. Here curves and openings mimic the human form with a sticky looking right into your ear, a flashy backside or a capacity to joint together.
This show could be an open invitation to just revel in the female form but in other works there is a provocative push and pull between garish and pleasing colors, smooth and rough textures. Puzzling abstraction and easily recognized forms.
Woodman’s working methods look deliberately half hazard, suggesting a non-Chelan attitude even though she is an incredibly skilled artist. She takes on art historical legacy by making nods to modern masters like Metiz and other painters as well as referring to Etruscan Chinese and Greek art. But unlike many artists, she does not seem anxious about inviting comparisons between the art historical cannon and her own work.
As a complex synthesis of historical inspiration and modern day taste, Woodman sculpture suggests she knows something that younger artist sometimes do not. That is that history does not have to be a burden and it very contemporary art can appeal to both the intellect and the eye.