Francesca Woodman: Zigzag, Victoria Miro, review. By Diane Smyth.
A carefully curated show of the late photographer's work finally reveals Woodman's charm, says Diane Smyth.
Francesca Woodman’s work comes with a lot of baggage. Firstly, she committed suicide in 1981 when she was just 22. Then there's the heavy symbolism in all her work, plus the weight of all the articles about that symbolism, much of it positioning her as a feminist hero. Added to this is her posthumous success, the strength of which has seen her exhibited at heavyweight institutions such as the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Guggenheim Museum in New York and the Fondation Cartier in Paris.
So it’s refreshing to see an exhibition that strips all this away to put the focus back on her photographs. As the name suggests, Zigzag gathers images in which Woodman uses a zigzag or another abstract geometrical form in her composition. So we have shafts of light criss-crossing a curtain in two untitled images made in New York in 1979, or the shape of her arms held up either side of her body in an untitled image made in MacDowell Colony, Peterborough, New Hampshire, 1980 and in another made in MacDowell/Stanwood, 1979-80.
A cynical observer might say that this theme also fortuitously provides a new way of showing some extremely well-known images – Woodman made thousands of negatives in her short career but her estate (managed by her parents George and Betty Woodman) has released just a tiny fraction of her work. However, this exhibition includes 10 works newly released from the artist’s estate, and the theme takes its lead from Woodman herself. She created a "Zig Zag Study" in New York in 1980, for example, which pieced together inter-related zigzag shots into a long continuous strip. She also created a diptych called "Zig Zag" around this time which is also included in the show...