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The Mattress Factory is an artist-centered museum, international residency program and renowned producer and presenter of installation art. We say “yes” to artists, offering time and space to dream and realize projects in our hometown, Pittsburgh, PA. We invite audiences from around the world and around the corner to step inside, immerse and connect with the artistic process.

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On View

Bill Woodrow

Ship of Fools: Discovery of Time

This play is a reflection on the (im)possibility of accepting diversity and the other. The fragmented body of the neoplasm—the fruit of unstable conditions—overcomes barriers, loves and denies itself and others, wanders around, forgetting its profession. It frequently and with pleasure divides, goes through dangerous palpation, questions the possibility of contact with the experience of the other. Poorly brought up but very successful, it invites us to a trans-species transition.

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Woodrow leavens his message by means of a wit that disarmingly beguiles as it delivers its sting. He fabricates his images out of the very stuff of daily existence, turning the detritus of one society into the material for prognostication concerning another.

Opening the door, the unsuspecting visitor witnesses a frightening spectacle. In a room rapidly filling with water, disaster and chaos seem to threaten from every direction. As the ascending torrent casts furnishings adrift in its turgid depths, a water buffalo, with a model ship stranded between its horns, bursts from the cupboard. The fin of a shark ominously cruises the engulfing waters, and a metronome portentously marks the passage of time. Starkly suspended overhead, a grubby naked bulb illuminates this scene with searing relentlessness. By means of a deft sleight of hand, Woodrow's observer is lured from the real taps to the simulated version, from a confrontation with a plausible domestic disaster - a fairly ordinary spillage - to consideration of a global one. The Deluge, the archetypal point of origin and ending. This seamless shift in reference from the actual to the mythic is reinforced by the introduction, via the title, of the concept of the Ship of Fools. A medieval emblem that traditionally denotes the quest by a group of madmen for truth and reason, it has here been interpolated into a world of disaster, dislocation, and disruption. - Lynne Cooke

Ship of Fools: Discovery of Time was installed at the Mattress Factory in 1986 and opened to the public in 1988.

When

Long-term

1986

Where

1414 Monterey, 3rd Floor

ACCEssibility

Accessible only by stairs

About The Artist

Bill Woodrow was born near Henley, Oxfordshire, UK. In addition to sculpture, Woodrow specializes in drawing, and printmaking. He studied at Winchester School of Art, Winchester, St. Martin’s School of Art, London, and Chelsea School of Art, London. Woodrow’s career took off in the early 1970’s after he hosted his first solo exhibition at Whitechapel Art Gallery in London. In his earlier work, Woodrow used recycled materials taken from dumps and scrap yards. Later in his career he began working with bronze. Woodrow’s work is held by collections including, Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; The British Museum, London; Tate Gallery, London; Musée des Beaux-Arts, France; Butler Gallery, Ireland; Yongsan Family Park, Korea, and much more.

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