Betty Woodman (American, b.1930) is one of the preeminent ceramic artists working today. Woodman’s Il Giardino Dipinto, composed of sixty glazed earthenware elements, brings painting, sculpture, and architecture together in one large installation. Created in 1993, it has been exhibited at several important European venues, but never before in the United States.
Il Giardino Dipinto was inspired by a frescoed room from the ancient Roman site of Pompeii. Woodman’s garden features a balustrade of flat half-vases, above which three fully volumetric vases are mounted, in addition to numerous flat vessels, handles, and shelves. The open spaces between and around the ceramic shapes are as important as the two- and three-dimensional forms themselves. All of Woodman’s works start with clay that is thrown on a wheel. Some of these vessels are flattened into slabs that are then cut into various shapes. After a first firing, the ceramic pieces are glazed in vibrant colors and refired. Her objects and installations are strikingly contemporary, even though steeped in the history of art and ceramics of many cultures and periods: ancient Greece and Rome, China, the Islamic world, European decorative arts, and the work of such modern masters as Matisse and Picasso. Woodman has chosen objects from the Museum’s permanent collection to enhance this exhibition of Il Giardino Dipinto.
Two related shows are on view in adjacent galleries: a selection of Woodman’s drawings; and a group of one-of-a-kind, contemporary ceramics created by Woodman and twelve other artists, drawn from the Museum’s collection.