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Royal Academy celebrates the career of British sculptor Bill Woodrow with exhibition
Bill Woodrow RA, Untitled, 1979. Telephone, plaster, varnish, 17 x 22 x 28 cm. Collection of the artist.
LONDON.- This exhibition spans Bill Woodrow RA’s entire career and explores the themes of his oeuvre from the early 1970s to the present day. Comprising over 60 works, it highlights his humour and inventiveness as well as underpinning his influential role in contemporary sculpture. The exhibition is held in Burlington Gardens, the Royal Academy’s new venue for contemporary art.

Bill Woodrow RA is one of the group of celebrated British sculptors born in the late 1940s and early 1950s, who have helped redefine public perceptions of sculpture, a group which also includes Anish Kapoor RA, Antony Gormley RA, Tony Cragg RA and Richard Deacon RA. His early work is characterised by his use of domestic and urban objects to make sculpture in which the original identity of his material is still evident. Woodrow cites Richard Long RA, Bruce McLean and Gilbert and George as early influences.

Arranged largely chronologically, Bill Woodrow RA explores the artist’s best-known and critically celebrated series, highlighting his preoccupation with disassembling and bringing new life and identity to everyday objects, in addition to his commentary on our relationship with the natural world. Focusing on the significant stages and themes within his work, it reveals the way in which each new series is informed by the preceding one.

The exhibition begins with a selection of Woodrow’s post-college and late 1970s works. By the late 1970s he had begun a period of intense activity which started with his appropriating household appliances and encasing them, fossil-like, in plaster and concrete. Works from his ensuing Breakdown period and Cut-out series from the early 1980s followed. This saw Woodrow using a variety of discarded household objects, and from them cutting out a form to create a different and more exciting object which remained connected to its host. The mid 1980s saw the beginning of the Installation works. Woodrow’s first use of welded steel and later bronze, marked his strong desire to move from the limitations of his previous found materials to work in a medium which he could shape from the beginning of the creative process. The Beekeeper series, all related by subject and employing a variety of materials, will be represented, as will the series of ceramic and laminated works of the Navigator, Revelator and Illuminator groups where the coloured geometric bases give a sense of gravitas to the objects they are supporting. A range of recent sculptural works from 2009–12 and a series of new drawings made using pollen are also displayed.

Highlights include Untitled, 1979, a fossilised telephone from the Fossil series; TV Blind, 1979, from the Breakdown series (specially recreated by the artist for the exhibition); Spin Dryer with Bicycle Frame including Handlebars, 1981 and Boeing, 1983, from the Cut-out series; Red Monkey, 1985, from the Installation works; For Queen and Country, 1989, from the Bronze works; Beekeeper and Four Hives, 1997, from the Beekeeper series and Ultramarine Navigator, 2005, from the Navigator series.

Born in Oxfordshire in 1948, Bill Woodrow studied at Winchester School of Arts from 1967 to 1968 and at St. Martin’s School of Art, London from 1968 to 1971 before spending one year at Chelsea School of Art, London from 1971 to 1972. His first solo exhibition was at the Whitechapel Gallery, London in 1972. In the early 1980s he represented Britain at Biennales in Sydney (1982), Paris (1982, 1985) and Sâo Paulo (1983) and in 1986 he was a finalist in the Turner Prize at the Tate Gallery, London. His sculpture, Regardless of History, was displayed on the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square from 2000 to 2001 and in 2002 he was elected a Royal Academician. Bill Woodrow lives and works in London and Hampshire.



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