While in San Francisco last week, I happened to catch the Francesca Woodman exhibit at SF MoMA. Reading the wall text before entering, I was dubious as to what I would find. It described the prolific photography of the daughter of artists, a girl in the blurry transition from adolescence to adulthood, who showed promise and then committed suicide before she reached twenty-three.
So, given, my expectations were low. But I was entranced, especially by the first two rooms of work she did at maybe eighteen or nineteen, sometimes using her assignments at RISD as a jumping off point. The work was curious, visually complex, and hardly the melodramatic egomania I expected from a teenager using herself as a subject.
My friend Will told me there’s actually a documentary about the Woodmans, that was so good, he was a little disappointed in the work itself. I guess it depends on your expectations. It’s a tough paradigm, dying young, untarnished, and yet never fully deserving of praise qualified by the unknowable potential of the artist.
It’s worth seeing if you’re in SF before February 20. There are also catalogues of her work.