Prominent Stockholm-based gallery Andréhn-Schiptjenko presents its first exhibition now representing the work of the iconic and late Francesca Woodman. In an interview, Ciléne Andréhn and Ebba von Beetzen of the gallery speak of an exhibition that has been long time in the process, noting on Woodman that whilst her fate remains a tragedy, it does not define who she was or her body of work.
C-P: This ongoing exhibition marks the gallery’s first representing the estate of Francesca Woodman which is really a wonderful feat and addition to the gallery’s programme. What may be some early memories of Francesca Woodman’s work for you?
C.A: I think the first time I saw her work was at the exhibition that was done at Kulturhuset in 1992, just after we had opened the gallery (in 1991). It made a very strong impression on me, I was quite young at the time and it just stayed with me.
E.B: The first time I came in contact with Francesca Woodman’s work was in March 2012 when Guggenheim showed a retrospective of her work.
C-P: I gather that it has been a long time coming leading up finally to the show. What has the timeline and process been like working with the estate?
C.A: Marina (Schiptjenko) and I had been talking about Woodman's work for quite a while, it was part of a discussion of artists who had had a great influence on other artists that had come after. We also bought a few pieces for our own collection, from Victoria Miro Gallery in London who we know well and with whom we began talking about our ideas for an exhibition. When Moderna wanted to do their exhibition ours was put on the back burner for a while. So it was a long process, which was a good thing as the œuvre is complex and rich.
E.B: Discussions about a collaboration began several years ago. Last year we met Betty and George Woodman together with Katarina Jerinic, the curator of the estate during the same week as the opening at Moderna museet. After we all had met with them, more serious discussions began about an exhibition and we set the dates. We were consigned around five works after this, which we showed at Chart Art Fair in August. After the fair we made a wishlist of works we would like to have in the exhibition. Then it took a couple of weeks until we had narrowed down a list which we all felt happy with.
C-P: It’s generally held that Francesca Woodman’s body of work encompasses an extensive amount of images of roughly eight hundred. On that note, what has the selection been based on for the show?
C.A: Selection was difficult because there are so many great works, it was really a "kill your darlings" kind of process. I felt that Moderna Museet had done such a great job of doing a survey exhibition and including lesser known pieces, such as the Zig Zag ones and the film works, that a Swedish audience by now had quite a clear view of her œuvre. This enabled us to focus on a more personal selection. The exhibition opens with the work "Selfportrtait at 13" and I think it is seminal for the exhibition’s focus on how Woodman's position fluctuates between object and subject and how the one does not exclude the other. I also think the enactement of the self is very relevant today.
E.B: Since we wanted all the works we were showing to be for sale, we could choose from around 200 works. We are showing 37 works in the exhibition, which we think fit within our concept for the show. We tried to avoid showing larger bodies of works to show how strong many of her works are on their own. It was however inevitable to show several parts from the Self-Deceit series since it’s so fascinating.
C-P: In a time of instant self-portraiture in the form of the “selfie”, it is brought to mind how pioneering Francesca Woodman really was putting herself in front of her lense, not only as the object but also subject as noted. The tragic fate of the artist that is widely known, inevitably becomes omnipresent in the reading of her work and while it’s easy to ascribe a certain vulnerability to her character as a result, on the contrary her work often feels marked by a commanding force of action.
C.A: Yes, I think it is important to keep in mind that, whilst her death was of course a tragedy, it does not define who she was or the work that she did. I think the work shows not only amazing talent but a maturity and a force - and a self-awareness of that force - that is incredible.
C-P: From the mere sound of it; black and white compositions, references alluding for instance to surrealism and the gothic, it could almost sound outdated, but looking at Francesca Woodman’s work it always strikes as so cannily relevant from a visual point of view, and in tune with the times. Do you find it easy tracing her influence on later generations of photographers?
C.A: Well, I think that staging photograhphs and using one's self as object is a practice that we see quite a lot, in art but also in visual social media now. I think her influence has been of great importance, her images but also her thinking, her diaries, and the scholarly essays that have been written about her.
E.B: Many contemporary female artists have cited her as an influence, Cindy Sherman and Annika von Hausswolff among others.
C-P: What might you have learnt about Francesca Woodman that is not widely known in the process of working with her body of work?
C.A: I think what has struck me the most is the force with which she carried out her work, that she was so aware of her own talent and so determined in what she wanted to do. And all this at an age where a lot of people today are vaguely trying to find out what they want to do...
E.B: Viewing her works and videos and reading essays about her work, I learnt that she had a very clear vision about the images she wanted to take. Since she was a student, I previously assumed that her photos were more experimenting than they perhaps actually were.
The exhibition runs through Dec 20 at Andréhn-Schiptjenko in Stockholm.
Image courtesy of the gallery and the Estate of Francesca Woodman.
1) Francesca Woodman Untitled, New York, 1979-1980 (N.409) Ed. of 40 Estate digital c-print 8,5 x 8,8 cm (image size) 44,2 x 43,2 cm (frame size) Courtesy George and Betty Woodman © The Estate of Francesca Woodman
2) Francesca Woodman Untitled, MacDowell Colony, Peterborough, New Hampshire, 1980 (M.562) Ed. of 40 Gelatin silver estate print 11,4 x 11,3 cm (image size) 44,2 x 43,2 cm (frame size) Courtesy George and Betty Woodman © The Estate of Francesca Woodman.
3) Francesca Woodman Polka Dots, Providence, Rhode Island, 1975-1978 (P.24.1A) Ed. of 40 Gelatin silver estate print 11,9 x 9,8 cm (image size) 44,2 x 43,2 cm (frame size) Courtesy George and Betty Woodman © The Estate of Francesca Woodman.
4) Francesca Woodman Untitled, Providence, Rhode Island, 1975-1978 (P.45) Ed. of 40 Gelatin silver estate print 12,7 x 12,8 cm (image size) 44,2 x 43,2 cm (frame size) Courtesy George and Betty Woodman © The Estate of Francesca Woodman.
5) Francesca Woodman Untitled (from Swan Song series), Providence, Rhode Island, 1978 (BFA.03) Ed. of 10 Estate digital c-print 103,6 x 92,2 cm (image size) 113 x 124,8 cm (frame size) Courtesy George and Betty Woodman © The Estate of Francesca Woodman.
6) Francesca Woodman Self-portrait at 13, Antella, Italy, 1972 (E.1) Ed. of 40 Gelatin silver estate print 17,2 x 16,8 cm (image size) 44,2 x 43,2 cm (frame size) Courtesy George and Betty Woodman © The Estate of Francesca Woodman.
7) Francesca Woodman Me and My Roomate, Boulder, Colorado, 1976 (E.6) Ed. of 40 Gelatin silver estate print 12,6 x 12,4 cm (image size) 44,2 x 43,2 cm (frame size) Courtesy George and Betty Woodman © The Estate of Francesca Woodman.