The Director’s Archive: Bill Woodrow, 1983

Bill Woodrow’s solo presentation at the Museum of Modern Art Oxford in 1983 provided an opportunity to look at the artist’s recent work as a way to engage with a new generation of sculptural practice arising from the highly influential St Martin’s School of Art. At that time it had been the seedbed of new developments in British sculpture for more than 20 years.

This exhibition presented works from the late 1970s onwards, showing the movement away from the artist’s large photographs dissected with material objects represented within the images, through to his development of sculptural forms, taking every day objects such as vacuum cleaners, tape-recorders, washing-machines, bicycle frames, kettles and furniture, as a point of departure.  

Woodrow’s characteristic method of making sculpture was to form new objects from the skin of a found domestic appliance in such a way as to leave evidence of the original identity of the item as well as the mode of transformation, creating a kind of three-dimensional drawing to the concept and process.

I’ve chosen this exhibition partly due to my admiration of Woodrow and in recognition of his influence on British sculpture at this time. But it also represents the way in which the gallery’s programme has often provided a lens on much wider developments in art, in this case, contemporary British sculpture, through a careful selection of an individual artist whose work allows major developments in media to be engaged with by a wide audience.

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