Francesca Woodman’s Haunting, Sensual Self-Portraits [NSFW]

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Freshly opened at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Francesca Woodman is the first major American retrospective of the artist’s brief but fascinating career in twenty years. The oeuvre of her visceral self-portraiture, heavily influenced by surrealist writings and Victorian-era fiction, emerges in form of 160 vintage images of the photographer exploring the body as a form within the confines of a closed studio space, as well as rarely-screened, recently uncovered video works.

Woodman came of age at the time when photographers began to be nurtured as artists, but her career lasted less than a decade; she threw herself out of a loft window in New York City in 1981 at the age of 22. What remains of Woodman are the armies of influenced doppelgängers, enigma, and a solid, provocative body of work. See some of the artifacts from the exhibition, courtesy of SFMOMA, in our gallery.

Francesca Woodman, House #4, Providence, Rhode Island,1976; gelatin silver print; 5 ¾ x 5 ¾ in. (14.6 x 14.6 cm); courtesy George and Betty Woodman; © George and Betty Woodman

Francesca Woodman, Untitled, Providence, Rhode Island, 1976; gelatin silver print; 5 1/4 x 5 5/16 in. (13.3 x 13.5 cm); courtesy George and Betty Woodman; © George and Betty Woodman

Francesca Woodman, Untitled, New York, 1979–80; gelatin silver print; 6 1/16 x 6 1/16 in. (15.4 x 15.4 cm); George and Betty Woodman

Francesca Woodman, Untitled, Providence, Rhode Island, ca. 1976; gelatin silver print; 5 3/16 x 5 3/8 in. (13.2 x 13.7 cm); collection of Susan Turner and Scott Purdin; © George and Betty Woodman

Francesca Woodman, Untitled, New York,1979–80; gelatin silver print; 4 1/2 x 4 1/2 in. (11.4 x 11.4 cm); courtesy George and Betty Woodman; © George and Betty Woodman

Francesca Woodman, Polka Dots, Providence, Rhode Island, 1976; gelatin silver print; 5 1/4 x 5 1/4 in. (13.3 x 13.3 cm); courtesy George and Betty Woodman; © George and Betty Woodman

Francesca Woodman, Untitled, Providence, Rhode Island, 1976; gelatin silver print; 6 x 6 in. (15.2 x 15.2 cm); Collection San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Members of Foto Forum purchase; © George and Betty Woodman

Francesca Woodman, Self-portrait talking to Vince, Providence, Rhode Island, 1975–78; gelatin silver print; 5 1/8 x 5 1/16 in. (13 x 12.9 cm); courtesy George and Betty Woodman; © George and Betty Woodman

Francesca Woodman, Untitled, Providence, Rhode Island, ca. 1976; gelatin silver print; 5 3/16 x 5 3/8 in. (13.2 x 13.7 cm); collection of Susan Turner and Scott Purdin; © George and Betty Woodman

Francesca Woodman, Untitled, New York,1979–80; chromogenic print; 3 3/8 x 3 1/2 in. (8.6 x 8.9 cm); courtesy George and Betty Woodman; © George and Betty Woodman

Francesca Woodman, Untitled, New York,1979–80; gelatin silver print; 3 7/8 x 3 7/8 in. (9.8 x 9.8 cm); courtesy George and Betty Woodman; © George and Betty Woodman

Francesca Woodman, Untitled, New York, 1979–80; gelatin silver print; 5 1/4 x 5 1/4 in. (13.3 x 13.3 cm); courtesy George and Betty Woodman; © George and Betty Woodman

Francesca Woodman, Untitled, MacDowell Colony, Peterborough, New Hampshire, 1980; gelatin silver print; 5 x 5 in. (12.7 x 12.7 cm); collection San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, purchase through a gift of Kate and Wes Mitchell and the Accessions Committee Fund; © George and Betty Woodman

Francesca Woodman, Untitled, Providence, Rhode Island, 1975–76; gelatin silver print, 4 5/8 x 4 13/16 in. (11.7 x 12.2 cm); collection Sammlung Verbund, Vienna; © George and Betty Woodman

Francesca Woodman, Untitled, Rome, 1977–78; gelatin silver print; 6 3/8 x 6 7/8 in. (16.2 x 17.5 cm); courtesy George and Betty Woodman and Marian Goodman Gallery, New York; © George and Betty Woodman

Francesca Woodman, Untitled, Providence, Rhode Island,1977–78; gelatin silver print; 4 3/4 x 4 1/2 in. (12.1 x 11.4 cm); The Black Dog Collection; © George and Betty Woodman