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Francesca Woodman, Untitled, New York, 1979-80
Francesca Woodman, Untitled, New York, 1979-80, courtesy George and Betty Woodman


Nov. 10, 2011
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Two back-to-back retrospectives at the Guggenheim next spring juxtapose the works of two vastly different artists: Internationally celebrated sculptor John Chamberlain, now 84 years old, whose show is titled “Choices,” Feb. 24-May 13, 2012, and the intellectual art-world favorite Francesca Woodman, a prodigal photography student who committed suicide in 1981 at the age of 22. That exhibition, March 16-June 13, 2012, is the first comprehensive survey of the artist’s work since a Wellesley College show held a few years after her death.

The Chamberlain retrospective, the first of its kind since a mid-career survey at the museum in 1971, when he was 44, takes its title from the elements of “fit and choice” that are fundamental to Chamberlain’s practice, said curator Susan Davidson during a press lunch yesterday at the museum. The 95 works in the show trace the artist’s career from his early found-metal assemblage of the 1950s, to his high-gloss lacquer painting and 16mm-filmmaking in the 1960s, his Baroque style of the 1990s, and his recent return to car-part sculpture over the last two to three years.

Davidson pointed out that she hoped this exhibition would also highlight some of Chamberlain’s less iconic works, namely his wall collages, and his use of non-metal materials, like the “articulate wadding” of paper bags. She is not including his more recent photographic works, however, such as those exhibited this fall at Steven Kasher Gallery in New York. “At the end of the day, we wanted to feature sculpture,” she said. “Plus, he made some 9,000 photos -- we’d have to go through all of them.”

After that exhibition closes, the museum shifts gears for its show of Francesca Woodman’s artist books, short videos and 100 photographs. The exhibition, which comes from the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, is organized chronologically through the artist’s short life -- beginning in her Rhode Island School of Design years, into her study-abroad in Italy and ending with her brief, unsuccessful stint as a fashion photographer in New York City. Through Woodman’s interest in female nudes, including self-portraiture, Guggenheim curator Jennifer Blessing said she reveals “femininity as a masquerade, much like Cindy Sherman,” who was making her untitled Film Stills at the same time, though the two didn’t know of each other.

Curators at the event also announced a host of other upcoming programming at the museum, including a Deutsche Bank-sponsored presentation of Southeast Asian film, video and sound works, March 2-June 6, 2012; an exhibition from the museum’s holdings on international abstraction from 1949-1960, highlighting works acquired by the Guggenheim’s second director, James Johnson Sweeney, June 8-Sept. 12, 2012; a retrospective of 70 photographs and five videos by contemporary German photographer Rineke Dijkstra, June 29-Oct. 3, 2012; and an exhibition of Pablo Picasso’s black-and-white paintings -- “the way he is expressed the best,” according to curator Carmen Giménez -- to be hung along the ramps, Oct. 5, 2012-Jan. 23, 2013.

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John Chamberlain, Dolores James, 1962
John Chamberlain, Dolores James, 1962