Betty Woodman at David Kordansky Gallery

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Forget, for a moment, about art for art’s sake. How about looking at art for the sake of pleasure and plenitude? Betty Woodman, now 84, brings both to her exhibition of ceramics and painting in Illusions of Domesticity at David Kordansky Gallery through March 21.

Betty Woodman
The Red Table, 2014
glazed earthenware, epoxy resin, lacquer, acrylic paint, canvas
67 1/2 x 86 1/2 x 14 1/4 inches
(171.5 x 219.7 x 36.2 cm)
Photography: Brian Forrest

Woodman has had a long career expanding the possibilities of ceramics in a fine art context, using the vessel for all its metaphoric and pragmatic capabilities: similarity to female form, container of everything from wine to ashes. Her abilities have been lauded to the point of having being the only living woman artist to have a retrospective at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which garnered raves in 2006.

Betty Woodman
Aztec Vase and Carpet # 6 Easter, 2014
glazed earthenware, epoxy resin, lacquer, acrylic paint, canvas
35 1/4 x 60 1/2 x 43 inches
(89.5 x 153.7 x 109.2 cm)
Photography: Brian Forrest

In her more recent work, she still uses ceramics but extends her curiosity and commitment to painting and sculpture, incorporating the seductive powers of decoration with the visual demands of Cubism. It is a wonderful show, full of wonders on many levels, primarily recalling the delights of Matisse’s paintings of interiors and cut-paper compositions.

Betty Woodman
The Pink Table, 2014
glazed earthenware, epoxy resin, lacquer, acrylic paint, canvas, wood
65 x 60 x 12 inches
(165.1 x 152.4 x 30.5 cm)
Photography: Brian Forrest

In this show, Woodman’s interiors are brightly limned onto sheets of canvas attached to the wall. The illusion of space (and domesticity) is complicated by the addition of three-dimensional elements on the face of the canvas. For Chartreuse Table (2014), a table surface is constructed as a relief and topped with an unglazed clay bowl filled with clay plants, all loosely expressed, while the receding perspective of the table and legs is painted in lemony green onto the background panels of lavender, turquoise, black stripes on white and white waves on marigold. Curving shards of unglazed clay stroked with white and one yellow piece dotted with black are attached to the surface as well. It is a riot of delight. The artist divides her time between homes in New York City and Antella, Italy and both can be seen to have an influence, from the rich collections of Modern and non-Western art in city museums to her lengthy interest in ancient Roman wall painting and amphoras.

Betty Woodman
The Chartreuse Table, 2014
glazed earthenware, epoxy resin, lacquer, acrylic paint, canvas, wood
70 x 85 x 12 inches
(177.8 x 215.9 x 30.5 cm)
Photography: Brian Forrest

Throughout the show, there are elaborate painted vases perched atop bases that are cut-out to emulate the vase shapes. Some rest on carpets, that is to say floor-bound canvases painted in curlicues and stripes and checks that accentuate the patterns of the complex ceramics. Other vases stand sentinel before expansive wall pieces. All of the works reward time. The more time spent looking, the more rewards. Another reward is that David Kordansky, who often shows younger artists, is stepping into the void left by the recent closing of the Frank Lloyd Gallery, which has long been a home to artists working in clay.

Tom of Finland
Untitled, 1961
graphite on paper
12 1/4 x 9 3/4 inches
Photography: Brian Forrest
Courtesy of David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles, CA

And for something altogether different, the adjacent gallery at Kordansky features the often hilarious homo-erotic drawings from the estate of Tom of Finland. Engorged, enormous, erect. You get the idea but you might want to see it to believe it.

Les Biller
Swing Monkey, 2007-2011
Oil on Canvas

And not to be missed are Les Biller Part 2 at Rosamund Felsen, closing Feb. 7, and John Valadez: Como Fregas/What Now, closing Feb. 21.

John Valadez
Drowning the Firebird, 2014
Acrylic on canvas