Beatrice Wood: Career Woman - Drawings, Paintings, Vessels, and Objects will offer a comprehensive survey and a new assessment of this emblematic California artist, a scholarly, commemorative evaluation of Wood, whose extraordinary life and career traversed and contributed to the cultural and artistic highlights of the entire 20th century.
Beatrice Wood: Career Woman is part of Pacific Standard Time: Art in L.A. 1945–1980. This unprecedented collaboration, initiated by the Getty, brings together more than sixty cultural institutions from across Southern California for six months beginning October 2011 to tell the story of the birth of the L.A. art scene. An artist who worked on both the East and West coasts and bridged gaps between areas as disparate as New York Dada and Southern California ceramics, Wood (1893–1998) was a vital contributor to the art scene of the period and is thus a key player in the Pacific Standard Time project.
Beatrice Wood: Career Woman will include over 100 works of art. The exhibition will begin with Wood’s early Dada work, which includes drawings, paintings, posters, prints, and illustrated albums and travelogues. Wood first encountered Dada—a primary creative and personal influence—in New York, arising from her intimate friendships with Marcel Duchamp and the collectors Walter and Louise Arensberg. It was Dada that first inspired Wood to become an artist, and it shaped her creative thinking for the rest of her life. The exhibition will then go on to feature prominent examples of Wood’s ceramics created from the 1940s until her death in 1998. Wood was exceptionally prolific, even given her remarkable longevity. She repeatedly investigated and revisited a number of subjects, forms, and materials over a 60- to 70-year period.
Though Wood did not turn to ceramics until 1933 at the age of 40, she became an accomplished clay artist and went on to produce some of her most notable works well into her 90s. Her experimentation with ceramic glazing and firing was extraordinary, a compendium of clay technique. She first began to experiment with clay pieces that took the form of tiles or plates. By the 1980s, Wood was creating objects on a much larger scale, such as colossal goblets more than a foot tall and wide. The exhibition will survey the full range of her ceramics—from the miniature to the large-scale, from the utilitarian to the decorative, and from the vessel to figures, scenes, and tableaux.
A fully-illustrated, scholarly catalogue will accompany the exhibition. Dada scholar and independent curator Francis Naumann and Marie T. Keller will edit, annotate, and illustrate excerpts from the Diary of Beatrice Wood. Using this primary source material, Naumann will investigate Wood’s artistic production in historical context, and in the process publish parts of her diary for the first time. Jennifer Sorkin, Assistant Professor of Art History and Critical Studies at the University of Houston, will explore the role Wood played in the Dada movement and how this involvement affected her artistic development. She also will examine Wood’s exploitation of her own sexuality and how this attitude affected the creation of her artistic persona. Clay scholar Garth Clark will catalogue Wood’s evolution as a potter, specifically focusing on her later period, which features evolving scale in both figurative and functional ceramics. He will contextualize Wood’s ceramic work within the era’s artistic milieu. Kathleen Pyne, Associate Professor of Art History at University of Notre Dame, will investigate the diverse aspects of California spirituality from the 1920s to the 1950s, examining its impact on modernists in general, and Beatrice Wood in particular.
Wood created a complex, thoughtful, and inexhaustible oeuvre, one that is equal parts narrative and form, equal parts poetry and wit. Her irrepressible sensibility could be bold, audacious, insouciant, sexually charged, and at times biographical. This exhibition will honor Wood’s indomitable spirit and dynamic artistic force, a pairing that produced a mature body of work that defines her importance as an artist.
SMMoA Executive Director Elsa Longhauser and Deputy Director Lisa Melandri are co-curators for the exhibition.
Image: Beatrice Wood, Plate and Goblet, Earthenware, 10 in, Bequest of the Rick Dillingham Estate, 1994, Courtesy New Mexico Museum of Art
Opening Reception: Saturday, September 10
Members’ and Press Preview, 6 to 7 pm
Public Opening, 7 to 9 pm
Santa Monica Museum of Art
Bergamot Station G1, 2525 Michigan Ave - Santa Monica
Tuesday through Saturday, 11 a.m.-6 p.m.
Closed Sunday, Monday, and all legal holidays
Suggested Donation: $5; Artists, Students, Seniors: $3