Bill Woodrow

Twin-Tub with Guitar


Not on display

Bill Woodrow born 1948
Washing machine
Object: 889 × 762 × 660 mm
Purchased 1982

Display caption

Bill Woodrow’s raw materials are familiar, domestic objects collected from the streets and junk yards in his neighbourhood. In the early 1980s he began giving them new meanings by peeling back their outer casing to form new objects. Here he has cut a sculpture of an electric guitar from a discarded Hotpoint washing machine.

This odd conjunction brings together two symbols of Western consumerism. Woodrow explained ‘The guitar was a pop icon and the washing machine was an everyday, domestic item. So it was bringing the two things together like a slice of life’.

Gallery label, August 2004

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Catalogue entry


Not inscribed
Washing machine, 35×30×26 (88.9× 76.2×66)
Purchased from the Lisson Gallery (Grant-in-Aid) 1982
Exh: Objects & Sculpture, Arnolfini Gallery, Bristol, May–June 1981 and ICA, July–August 1981 (works not listed, repr. p.36); Bill Woodrow, New 57 Gallery, Edinburgh, October 1981 (no catalogue); British Sculpture in the 20th Century, Part 2: Symbol and Imagination 1951–1980, Whitechapel Art Gallery, November 1981–January 1982 (172, repr. in leaflet, n.p.); Bill Woodrow: Beaver, Bomb and Fossil, Museum of Modern Art, Oxford, May–July 1983 (9)
Lit: John Roberts, ‘Objects and Sculpture’, Artscribe, no.30, August 1981, p.50; Michael Newman, ‘Bill Woodrow’, Art Monthly, no.53, February 1982, p.19; John Roberts, ‘Car Doors & 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.; Michael Newman, ‘New Sculpture in Britain’, Art in America, LXX, September 1982, pp.109; Lewis Biggs, ‘Bill Woodrow’ in catalogue for Transformations, New Sculpture from Britain, XVII São Paulo Bienal, 1983, p.65, repr.; John Roberts, ‘Urban Renewal, New British Sculpture, Parachute, March, April, May 1983, p.15; Lynne Cooke, ‘Reconsidering the “New Sculpture”,’ Artscribe, no.42, August 1983, p.28, repr.p.25
Repr: Artforum, XX, December 1981, p.81; The Tate Gallery: Illustrated Biennial Report 1980–82, 1983, p.57

Unless otherwise stated, this entry is based on a conversation with the artist (22 October 1982).

This is one of four related sculptures exhibited together in 1981 in the exhibition Objects & Sculpture at the Arnolfini Gallery in Bristol and at the ICA. For the past five years, Bill Woodrow has been making sculpture from discarded domestic equipment, such as furniture, obsolete electrical appliances and parts of abandoned cars, collecting this material from streets and junk yards, frequently in the vicinity of his home in South London.

Woodrow first used an everyday object for one of his sculptures in 1979, when he embedded a record player in plaster. Between 1979–80 he made a number of similar works (some involving the part excavation of the object from its ‘host’ material) following these with sculptures where he replicated, adapted - though not in any practically useful way - cut into and rearranged similar sorts of found objects or their components.

The immediate forerunner of the first set of ‘twin-tub’ works was ‘Eight Bicycle Frames’ (1980) where each frame was cut and stretched as nearly as possible into a straight line and the eight frames were grouped in a fan configuration. In a published interview the artist said ‘Having made the bicycle piece which had been about undoing, I decided I might actually make it back again, out of another material. As the material I had around at the time was spin-dryers and washing-machines, I decided to remake the bicycle frame which preceded it’ (printed in the catalogue Objects & Sculpture loc.cit., p.38). The work to which Woodrow refers, completed late in 1980, was a spin-dryer out of which he formed the replica of a bicycle frame without handlebars. It has never been exhibited but was the first sculpture where the artist used the metal surface of a single large domestic machine to make an attached life-sized replica of another familiar but unrelated object. Between December 1980 and January 1981 Woodrow completed four similar sculptures (in the order given here), ‘Spin Dryer with Bicycle Frame including Handle Bars’, (repr. as ‘Spin Dryer’ Arnolfini Review, May 1981, p.2); T03354; ‘Single-Tub with 9mm. Machine Gun’ and ‘Twin-Tub with Chainsaw’ (both reproduced in the Objects & Sculpture catalogue pp.36 and 39). The artist regards these sculptures as making up a group and they were first exhibited as such later in 1981 (loc.cit.).

These works, made economically from single units were constructed in a skilful but very straightforward way, as is demonstrated by the pattern left on each host machine where its casing has been peeled back and bent to form models of the bicycle frame, gun, guitar and saw.

Woodrow made no preliminary drawings or maquettes for the works, instead drawing in crayon straight onto the surface of each machine without recourse to a ruler or tape measure. The measurements were judged by eye and although he has occasionally worked with power tools, these and most of his subsequent sculptures were made using hand-cutting tools.

'Twin-Tub with Guitar’ is constructed from the casing of a discarded ‘Hotpoint’ combined washing-machine and spin-dryer, (which the artist remembers finding while visiting friends in Morden). It took approximately two weeks of full-time work to complete. The artist has described the replica of an electric guitar, which he formed out of the front and one side panel of the machine, as a ‘classic’ rock-and-roll model. In an excerpt from an interview with Lewis Biggs (published in the catalogue for Transformations, São Paulo 1983, op.cit. p.65), Woodrow said that he chose this image because ‘the guitar excited me, the combination with the washing-machine (from which it was made) ... I would quite like to have had a guitar like that myself.’ Woodrow acknowledges that the images in T03354 and its companion works are open to a wide range of interpretations, but told the compiler that while he enjoys recycling discarded household objects (both within and outside his art activities), and deplores the wastefulness of the consumer society, a principal reason for actually choosing to work with domestic electrical appliances was because he liked them as formal objects and because they were available. One aim in making T03354 and the related group of works was to pair ubiquitous contemporary Western images.

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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