Francesca Woodman’s only artists’ book to see publication during her lifetime, Some Disordered Interior Geometries was published mere days before her untimely suicide at the age of 22 in 1981. Many of the 500 copies are said to have been distributed at her funeral, at which time she was as of yet largely unknown. A 1986 exhibition organized by Ann Garbor, director of the Wellesley College Museum, in collaboration with Rosalind Krauss of Hunter College and critic Abigail Solomon-Godeau, marks Woodman’s first major exhibition, and her work has been fervently and passionately praised ever since, now recognized as one of the great and enigmatic photographers of her time.
In Some Disordered Interior Geometries, Woodman’s stark and captivating black-and-white photography are layered upon a reproduction of an antique Italian geometry textbook, marked with the artist’s own handwritten notes and translations. Her images, many of them posed and semi-obscured self-portraits in various contortions, against curious architectural elements, or alongside idiosyncratic objects, are haunting and evocative, activating a play on the body as a form, contrasted with the academic illustrations of geometric solids.
White-out fluid and handwritten pencil annotations pull us deeper into the central juxtaposition of the work, Woodman’s hand being one of constant revision and even anxiety; “almost a square,” she notes in a number of instances, “problems to resolve,” in others. Woodman’s body appears to us a spectre, either half-formed or in the process of disappearing. Her evocative work seems to operate at the very limits of knowledge, tearing at the immaterial divide between what is known and what is lived.