John Wood (born 1922) has consistently challenged traditional photography, often incorporating painting, drawing, and collage as well as cliché verre, solarization, and offset lithography. The artist emphasizes the role of drawing in his work: “Mark making, calligraphy, the kinetic motion of the movement of the hand, are very important to me; probably more important than anything else.” Transgressing the boundaries of “pure photography,” his eclectic practice has helped usher in alternative approaches to the medium. With their adroit manipulations of picture and text, his diaristic, multi-media compositions anticipate today’s digital imagery. On the Edge of Clear Meaning is Wood’s first museum retrospective, spanning his career from the early 1960s to the present.
Wood’s teaching, artmaking, and life are closely intertwined. His early childhood was marked by the Depression, with his family moving frequently as his father searched for employment. In 1942 he volunteered for the Army Air Corps, where he trained as a B-17 pilot and learned sequence photography. Following war’s end, Wood discovered the experimental work of Lázló Moholy-Nagy and enrolled at the Institute of Design in Chicago. There he studied photography with Harry Callahan and Art Sinsabaugh. After graduation Wood moved to upstate New York, where he taught in the School of Art and Design at Alfred University for thirty-five years. He now lives in Baltimore, Maryland; he and his wife, Laurie Snyder, migrate each summer to their home and studio in Ithaca, New York.
John Wood: On the Edge of Clear Meaning was coordinated by Nathan Lyons, Director Emeritus of the Visual Studies Workshop, in collaboration with Marie Via, Director of Exhibitions, Memorial Art Gallery, and Alison Nordstrom, Curator of Photography, George Eastman House. The presentation of John Wood: On the Edge of Clear Meaning at the Grey Art Gallery is made possible in part by the Abby Weed Grey Trust, the Ruth Davidson Abrams Endowment, and the Grey’s Director’s Circle, Inter/National Council, and Friends.