Bill Woodrow

(b. 1948)

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(1948– )

British sculptor, born in Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire. He first attracted attention at the beginning of the 1980s as one of the representatives of New British Sculpture, producing work made of scrap objects which were transformed by cutting out the contours of other objects like a dress pattern and then reconstructing them. The skins of twin-tub washing machines and spin dryers were cut away to become bicycle frames or chain saws. As these became more elaborate an element of overt political comment entered his work. English Heritage: Humpty Fucking Dumpty (1987, Tate) is made from a vaulting box, the sections of which are at a precarious angle to each other, propped up by a book, a plough, a clocking-in machine, and a box marked with the radiation hazard sign. Astride this sits a sheet metal ball with legs, the Humpty Dumpty in the nursery rhyme who ‘had a great fall’. The sculpture should be seen in the context of the elevation of history and ‘heritage’ as a political value in Britain at the time it was made, especially the revival of patriotism that followed the Falklands War. By turning to bronze, the traditional medium of the public monument, in later works he has continued to present a satirical view of tradition. In the 1990s he made a number of works on the theme of the Ship of Fools, including an anchor and a cannon supposedly dredged from its wreck.

Further Reading

J. Roberts, Bill Woodrow: Fools' Gold (1996)

Subjects: Art.

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