Bill Woodrow

Car Door, Ironing Board and Twin-Tub with North American Indian Head-Dress


Not on display

Bill Woodrow born 1948
Washing machine, ironing board and car door
Displayed: 1865 × 2830 × 1570 mm
Purchased 1982

Display caption

This replica of a Native American head-dress was made from sheet metal taken from a car door, an ironing board and washing machine. A manufacturer''s logo is still visible on the top of one feather. ''The idea came from seeing a child''s toy head-dress and thinking about how far that image had travelled from its original form and place'', Woodrow explains. He was interested in the idea of a traditional, Native American culture confronting the trappings of consumer society, and the way in which many Native Americans now live a westernised life. The thin metal strips joining the objects together literally express this interweaving of two cultures.

Gallery label, August 2004

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Catalogue entry

Not inscribed 
Car door, ironing board, washing-machine and painted metal stand, maximum dimensions, car door, 37 1/4×37 1/2×9 1/2 (94.6× 95.2×24.1); head-dress with stand, 73 3/4× 12×26 (186.6×30.5×66); ironing board, 37×33 1/2×15 1/2 (94×85.1×39.3); washing-machine, 32 1/4×31 1/2×19 3/4 (82×80×50) 
Purchased from the Lisson Gallery (Grant-in-Aid) 1982 
Exh: Bill Woodrow, Lisson Gallery, January–February 1982 (no catalogue, 4 on duplicated typescript) 
Lit: Michael Newman, ‘Bill Woodrow’, Art Monthly, no.53, 1982, p.20; Caroline Collier, ‘Bill Woodrow, Lisson Gallery’, Flash Art, no.106, February–March 1982, p.59, repr.; John Roberts, ‘Car Doors and Indians’, ZG, no.6, April 1982, n.p., repr.; Michael Newman, ‘Bill Woodrow: The Excavation of the Object’ in catalogue for Englische Plastik Heute, Kunstmuseum Lucerne, July–September 1982, n.p. repr.; Michael Newman, ‘New Sculpture in Britain’, Art in America, LXX, September 1982, p.110; John Roberts, ‘Urban Renewal, New British Sculpture’, Parachute, March, April, May 1983, p.16; Lewis Biggs, ‘Bill Woodrow’ in catalogue for Transformations, New Sculpture from Britain, XVII São Paulo Bienal, 1983, p.67; David Elliott, ‘The Sculpture of Bill Woodrow’ in catalogue for Bill Woodrow, Beaver, Bomb and Fossil, Museum of Modern Art, Oxford, May–July 1983, p.5 
For this work, the surfaces of a white washing-machine and spin-dryer combination, [a Servis Supertwin 70], a green car door [probably from an Austin 1100] and a blue metal ironing board have been cut into and partially unravelled to make an attached replica of a Native American war bonnet. The replica is displayed on a black metal stand which the artist had made for him. The stand presents the ‘head-dress’ rather like an object on display in a museum. Apart from the commissioned stand, all the parts of this work were found abandoned in Brixton, South London. 
Like all Woodrow's sculpture, the work has been made with great economy, in this case from objects the artist already had in his studio. (He remembers that it took longer to make than ‘Twin-Tub with Guitar’ (T03354) but not much over two weeks.) The car door is used for the headband and decorative discs of the head-dress; the blue metal ironing board forms the middle section, including the smaller row of feathers, while the large feathers are made from the casing of the washing-machine. Unlike T03354, the artist has here made minor adjustments to the colour scheme, painting black tips on the metal ‘feathers’ and decorating the discs with a black and white design. As evidence of the past history of the washing-machine, the manufacturer's logo is visible on the tip of a ‘feather’; on another can be seen the transfer of a rose, placed on the machine by its original owners. Having cut into the surfaces of the door, the ironing board and the washing-machine-again without making preliminary drawings-(ref. T03354) Woodrow made the head-dress by bending and overlapping the metal strips. He told the compiler that the headdress is based in part on an image in a book belonging to his children, which gave instructions for making a headdress using turkey feathers. 
In an interview with John Walters on BBC Radio 1 (16 January 1982), Woodrow described the three ‘host’ objects in T03355 as all related to ‘a domestic situation’ and how he had had them in his studio for some time without knowing how to use them. Having decided to make a replica of an archetypal Native American war bonnet he became interested in the visual effect of juxtaposing images from superficially disparate cultures, the notion of the Native American confronting the trappings of Western man. Woodrow pointed out in the radio interview that the culture which produced the Indian war bonnet has now been sucked into a Western industrialised culture - the society which produces washing-machines, ironing boards and cars. Our image of the Native America is inevitably coloured by the media, the image of the ‘noble savage’ of film and television, whereas today many Native Americans live a Westernised life. They too are on the receiving end of a sentimentalized view of their culture. Woodrow has put forward the idea of a Native American getting out of his Pontiac, using his twin-tub washing-machine and afterwards putting on his ceremonial war bonnet to dance for the tourists. He is very interested in ethnography, but had not consciously expressed to himself these associations until T03355 was completed. He subsequently came to regard it as one of his most complex and evocative works. Since completing it he has made others, juxtaposing images from non-Western cultures with Western artefacts, notably, ‘Washing Machine, Armchair and Car Bonnet with Bena Biomba Mask’ 1982 and ‘Armchair and Washing-Machine with Bobo Mask’ 1982. Discussing this area in Woodrow's work the critic John Roberts has written, ‘Woodrow shows us how the myth of the primitive (the natural) in Western society is reinforced at the point of its destruction.’ (In ‘Urban Renewal: New British Sculpture’, op.cit.). 
This entry has been approved by the artist. 
Published in: 
The Tate Gallery 1980-82: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1984 

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