A Lover's Discourse: Issy Wood

Exhibition Guide


in the company of


December 14, 2023–February 25, 2024

Aspen Art Museum

June 22, 2023–April 7, 2024 A Lover’s Discourse

Guglielmo Castelli Chase Hall Ulala Imai Stanislava Kovalcikova Zeinab Saleh Issy Wood

A Lover’s Discourse is a new series of artist-led presentations introducing unexpected dialogues between artworks from different generations. Each exhibition juxtaposes recent works by an early-career artist with their choice of a companion piece from a private collection in Aspen. Artist selections range from historical to contemporary pieces, and span figurative and abstract painting, sculpture, video, works on paper, and sound.

December 14, 2023–February , 2024

Issy Wood in the company of Fernando Botero

The fifth presentation of A Lover’s Discourse features Tasting it all, a new painting by London- based artist Issy Wood (b. 1993, USA) exhibited alongside Fernando Botero’s oil on canvas Lovers from 1982. A new text by Wood accompanies the display and expands on her long-time interest in the volumetric figuration and stylized characters championed by the renowned Colombian painter, who passed away earlier this year. Wood’s new work shows a larger-than-life can of Diet Coke resting on its side. Lively and seemingly content on its horizontal plane, this stretched object takes up the full canvas and locks our gaze in close. Physical proximity is a recurring spatial motif in Wood’s work: her subjects—whether it be a leather car seat, a self-portrait, an antique ornament, or a pile of recyclable waste—tend to materialize through unnerving close-ups and focused crops derived from more expansive scenes. Experiencing this closeness arouses cravings, repulsions, intrusions, and desires. The emotional scripts within Wood’s paintings recur and mutate, never wearing out. Surreal, oneiric, and feminist undertones in her paintings and texts connect Wood with a lineage of twentieth century artists including Leonora Carrington and Lee Lozano. Her work is seen here for the first time in conversation with the practice of Fernando Botero, whose polarizing paintings of swollen, exaggerated people and objects have spilled into mainstream circuits in his namesake style “Boterismo.” Committed to figuration and realism, these two artists seem drawn to reality merely as a foundational source material. Interested in the semiotics of Botero’s unabashedly massive bodily forms, Wood chooses to juxtapose Lovers with a depiction of the popular sugar-free drink, perhaps one of America’s most successful attempts at generating—and dealing with—both pleasure and guilt.

List of works:

Issy Wood Tasting it all , 2023 Oil on linen 39 5/8 × 94 1/2 × 2 in Courtesy the artist; Carlos/Ishikawa, London; and Michael Werner Gallery, New York

Fernando Botero Lovers , 1982 Oil on canvas 41 1/4 × 33 1/2 in Private Collection

Issy Wood’s paintings suggest a stream of consciousness hiding something foreboding, a medieval current creeping into the millennial. Wood’s work is encrypted with symbols that suggest a psyche trying to consolidate its own interiority with social forces and layers of history—exploring how these tensions shape ideas of objectification, desire, and value. Major solo presentations of Wood’s have been staged at institutions including the Lafayette Anticipations, Paris (2023–24); the Ilmin Museum of Art, Seoul (2023); and Goldsmiths Centre for Contemporary Art (CCA), London (2019). Her work has also recently been presented at the ICA Miami (2022); the Hayward Gallery, London (2021); LACMA (2021); the Schinkel Pavillon, Berlin (2019); amongst others. Wood’s work is held in the permanent collections of the Dallas Museum of Art; Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris; Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; High Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA; Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA), Boston; Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA), Miami; the National Portrait Gallery, London; Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) Museum, Providence; Sharjah Art Foundation; Sifang Art Museum, Nanjing; Start Museum, Shanghai; Tate, UK; X Museum, Beijing; and Zabludowicz Collection, London; amongst others.

A Lover’s Discourse

December 14, 2023–February 25, 2024

Issy Wood in the company of Fernando Botero

Not everybody is willing to admit to loving Fernando Botero. I have enjoyed the Colombian artist’s work for at least 2 of the 3 decades I’ve been alive, since I saw a reproduction of Bather (2004) on a greetings card. There is something excusable about finding pleasure in the paintings as a child: their comic absurdity, their seemingly shameless bastardization of more serious modern art tropes. After all, no weaker currency exists for a child than seriousness. Only much later in my art education would I learn that Botero is not only dismissed but sometimes *despised* by those who make knowing about painting their profession. One cannot be a fan of his oeuvre so much as an apologist for it. There is, of course, no accounting for taste. Nobody should ever have to defend theirs, but I almost believe I had to achieve some level of painterly “influence” myself before my Botero fandom could be sincerely taken out for a spin. That this has coincided with his very recent death is one of those strange twists of chronology that I could not control, lending a seance quality to proceedings. It is impossible to talk about Botero’s paintings without talking about fatness, which is probably why nobody likes to talk about Botero. His bodies are neither Rubenesque nor zaftig, but something else. Since I was raised by medics, I have often speculated on the Body Mass Indexes of the figures he portrays, their eligibility for bariatric surgery et cetera. Compound this with an eating disorder I have grappled with for years, a pathological fear of flesh, of taking up space, and Botero figures bring much of my body dysmorphia and childish horror to life. I think of my grandmother’s yo-yo dieting, watching her ricochet wildly between two types of misery: a Botero and an Egon Schiele one. Her house is where I picked up a penchant for Diet Coke, a beverage maligned (perhaps in a similar way to Botero’s paintings) for being a cop-out. But who wants reality all the time? —Issy Wood


Accredited by the American Alliance of Museums in 1979, the Aspen Art Museum is a thriving and globally engaged non-collecting contemporary art museum. Following the 2014 opening of the museum’s facility designed by Pritzker Prize–winning architect Shigeru Ban, the AAM enjoys increased attendance, renewed civic interaction, and international media attention. In July 2017, the AAM was one of ten institutions to receive the United States’ National Medal for Museum and Library Services for its educational outreach to rural communities in Colorado’s Roaring Fork Valley and its fostering of learning partnerships with civic and cultural partners within a 100-mile radius of the museum’s Aspen location.

Aspen Art Museum 637 East Hyman Avenue Aspen, Colorado 81611

aspenartmuseum.org (970) 925-8050

Hours Tuesday–Sunday, 10 AM–6 PM Closed Mondays

Admission to the AAM is free courtesy of Amy and John Phelan.


A Lover’s Discourse is curated by AAM Curator at Large Stella Bottai. AAM exhibitions are made possible by the Marx Exhibition Fund. General exhibition support is provided by the Toby Devan Lewis Visiting Artist Fund. Additional support is provided by the AAM National Council.

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