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John Wood: there is waste in everything

June 8 – August 11, 2017

Opening: Thursday, June 8, 6-8pm

529 W. 20th Street

Maybe the time has come for creative photography to encompass the large problems without propaganda or journalism.

John Wood, 1970

Bruce Silverstein is pleased to announce the third solo exhibition dedicated to the work of John Wood. A master of process, Wood worked decisively across a variety of artistic forms with ease, incorporating photography, collage, offset lithography, and drawing, moving freely between conceptual and visual exploration. This exhibition will focus on the undercurrent of social and environmental issues that have informed Wood’s works since the early 1960s, featuring several examples that were included in his traveling retrospective, On the Edge of Clear Meaning (2009).

Referred to as ‘quiet protest,’ Wood addressed issues such as gun violence, nuclear waste and ecological concerns without imposing his own personal narrative or solution. The artist has assembled multi-layered compositions that invite the viewer to physically experience these complex topics in visual terms, hopefully without much prejudice, and find their own meanings in the work, referencing the open nature of democracy. In 1977, he wrote, “I would like my pictures to be abstract and poetic visual images of friends and the world- no story telling-sometimes slight propaganda and quiet protest-on the edge of clear meaning.”


The exhibition will feature Wood’s conceptual and more politically motivated works, including L.B.J. and Hands, 1965, Rifle with Cloud, 1967, and Cooling Tower: With What Will We Store Our Waste, 1991.  Wood has utilized a variety of media to encourage conversation regarding industrialization and its associated fallout. Interview, 1999, incorporates a poetic dialogue concerning waste in the Polaroid process, though the resigned response, ‘there is waste in everything’ belies a potentially more ubiquitous, metaphoric application, as his plea for the viewer's awareness can be felt.

Eagle Pelt from 1985 portrays the national emblem of America, with bound tarsi, conveying his sense of the direction the country was heading. By resurrecting these works three decades later, we witness the repetitive, cyclical nature of history and the projected consequences of such reality. Loudspeaker Collage (1960s) acted as a call to speak out; in 2017, the urgency of this message resonates just as widely. The loudspeaker can be viewed as symbolizing contemporary media outlets and the accessible means of spreading information, true or false.

John Wood (1922-2012) was educated at the Institute of Design, Chicago.  He taught at Alfred University, in Alfred, New York for 35 years and was an innovator and leader in the field of art education. Wood’s work has been exhibited widely, most recently in his 2009 retrospective at the International Center of Photography and the Grey Art Gallery in New York. His work is in the collections of many renowned institutions including the Baltimore Museum of Art; Center for Creative Photography, Tucson; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Museum of Modern Art, New York; and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

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