Nina Johnson is proud to present Some Things to Smile At, an exhibition of historic ceramics and drawings by the late artist Beatrice Wood, opening on February 14 with a public reception (7-9 pm) and remaining on view through May 2. Dating back to the 1920s, the works on display trace the iconoclastic artist’s relationship to the figure, and as well as her influence on contemporary artists such as Katie Stout, whose exhibition Sour Tasting Liquid is concurrently on view.
Wood, who passed away in 1998 at the age of 105, is one of modern art’s most captivating figures. Nicknamed the Mama of Dada because of her involvement with the New York school, she was romantically involved with Marcel Duchamp, friends with Anaïs Nin, and an inspiration for generations of artists. Across mediums and decades, her work fused Modernism with Eastern philosophy and folk matter-of-factness. After a youth spent between Paris, New York, and Montreal, in 1947 Wood followed the Theosophist leader Krishnamurti to the bohemian enclave of Ojai, California, where she spent her remaining years. There she focused on pottery, shaping the clay with the same freedom and irreverence that defined her life. A selection of these ceramics are on display in the gallery. Glowing with Wood’s trademark luster, they are graceful, spirited, and ahead of their time- included are figurative sculptures as well as more traditional forms.
The drawings on display have the uneasy distinction of being both artifacts of a long vanished world and harbingers of our contemporary moment. With nimble linework uniting deco flourishes and faux-naif figuration, they mix flapper with folk, advertising with the avant-garde. Above all, the artworks possesses a sense of humor and self-determination, a life force that propelled its creator into her 105th year. Wood’s art, which has yet to get the acclaim it deserves is a model for younger artists looking to ditch conventions, bend tradition, and live a little.
About Beatrice Wood
Beatrice Wood (1893–1998) was a painter, draughtsman, and sculptor best known for her luster-glazed ceramic works. Born in New York to a well-to-do family, Wood studied acting at the Comédie Française and painting at the Académie Julian. She was friends with Marcel Duchamp and Henri Roche, with whom she founded the prominent Dadaist magazine Blind Man; she was also part of a circle of artists and writers who frequented the home of the Modern Art collectors Louise and Walter Arensberg. In 1947 she relocated to Ojai, California, where she lived for the rest of her life. Her ceramics and drawings continue to inspire generations of the artists and freethinkers.