Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Disordered Interior Geometries

The photography of Francesca Woodman (1958-1981) is on display at San Francisco's Museum of Modern Art. I remember including some black and white images of her work in a simultaneous slide show titled "Symbolist Photography" that I produced in the late 80's for a Photo Archives course I was taking at Simmons GSLIS. I have not given much thought to her work since, until reading this morning's post at Cafe Selavy.

Her work is as engaging as her life was tragic. Some belittle her art ( John Henshall for the New Statesman -- this one is saddening right down to the comments ) while others have contributed in a more positive way to a meaningful understanding of it. Peter Davison, poetry editor for the Atlantic, suggests: "Francesca Woodman's work presents femaleness without satire or an agenda," in his insightful article Girl, Seeming to Disappear.

The Long Exposure of Francesca Woodman by Elizabeth Gumport on the New York Review of Books blog (which makes mention of Woodman's use of Surrealist motifs) was another good find, as were the selections of 21 images posted on this blog and 13 more on this tumblr. But what finally convinced me to write about Francesca Woodman today was the discovery, via Gumport's article, of the photographer's altered book, published in 1980, titled "Some Disordered Interior Geometries."

I didn't find a copy of the book on Amazon, nor was one available through any of the other used book sellers that I frequent. However, I discovered Alison Dunhill's article "Dialogues with Diagrams: Francesca Woodman's Book, Some Disordered Interior Geometries" for Rebus, an online journal of art history and theory (Issue 2, Autumn 2008, .pdf file here). It is illustrated with several two-page spreads in addition to an image of the altered cover of the Italian geometry text, Esercizi Graduati di Geometria, which forms the base for Woodman's photos and annotations. According to Dunhill, this was one of five photographic books that Woodman created using a found object in this manner.

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