Critics’ Picks

Betty Woodman, Outside and In, 2017, glazed earthenware, epoxy resin, lacquer, acrylic paint, canvas, wood, 75 1/2 x 119 x 10 1/2"


Betty Woodman

Galleria Lorcan O'Neill
Vicolo dei Catinari 3
October 20–November 18

In recent works claiming both the territory of painting and sculpture, Betty Woodman pushes the boundaries of her chosen medium, ceramics, and her work seems here fresher and freer than ever. The artist challenges notions of likeness, mixing real objects and their representations, always maintaining her sense of humor on high frequencies. Her signature vases, plates, and pitchers dialogue with painted trompe l’oeil interiors: Sitting in the round on shelves, the vases appear again on the canvas as two-dimensional shapes, or even as their own incongruously painted shadows. In one of her most compelling works, Country Dining Room, 2015, a painted table rendered with a striking diagonal inclination juts out on its lower end into three dimensions, becoming a pedestal for glazed jars, while flat ceramic cups and plates appear on its checkered tablecloth. Our focus needs to adjust to a constant play between foreground and background in order to reconstruct the objects and make sense of their distorted proportions. The spatial complexity of these compositions is even more acute in Outside and In, 2017. Woodman lets ceramic shards seemingly fly away on the wall, denying the limitations of the canvas and of gravity, and taking possession of the surrounding space with a dash of bravery.

Woodman has never been so daring: Her idiosyncratic point of view skews into puzzling perspectives, causing raised floors, walls, and doors to intersect at unnatural angles. We peer into her joyfully colored domestic interiors, but it’s like looking into rooms that Matisse painted under the influence of a hallucinatory drug. It’s a roller coaster for the eyes, but a pleasant one for sure.