Two exhibitions by photographer John Wood: ‘On the Edge of Clear Meaning’ at Grey Art Gallery, New York and ‘Quiet Protest’ at the International Center of Photography, New York

Exhibition dates

Grey Art Gallery, 12th May – 18th July 2009
International Center of Photography, 15th May – 6th September 2009


Fantastic to see such a talented artist, a truly ground breaking artist, get the recognition he so richly deserves!


Grey Art Gallery

John Wood. 'Untitled' 1986–89


John Wood (American, 1922-2012)
Stained gelatin silver print from paper stencil


John Wood. 'Beach Drawing' 1983


John Wood (American, 1922-2012)
Beach Drawing
Gelatin silver print
14 15/16 x 19 1/8″ (37.8 x 48.5cm)



John Wood: On the Edge of Clear Meaning, on view at the Grey Art Gallery from May 12 through July 18, 2009, is the most comprehensive exhibition of the artist’s work to date. Featuring the full range of his career from the 1960s to the present, the show includes over 150 photographs, mixed-media works, and artists’ books. A selection of Wood’s photomontages, Quiet Protest, will be on view concurrently at the International Center of Photography.

John Wood (born 1922) has consistently challenged traditional photography, often incorporating painting, drawing, and collage as well as cliché verre, solarisation, and offset lithography. The artist emphasises 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.

His early childhood was marked by the Depression, and his family moved frequently. After serving in the Army Air Corps as a B-17 pilot during World War II, he enrolled at the Institute of Design in Chicago. Wood trained as a visual designer and photographer, studying with Harry Callahan and Art Sinsabaugh to hone both conceptual and formal issues in his work. He left Chicago to teach photography and printmaking at the School of Art and Design at Alfred University in Alfred, New York, where he would live for thirty-five years. He now resides in Baltimore, Maryland with his wife, Laurie Snyder, who teaches photography at the Maryland Institute College of Art. They migrate each summer to their home and studio in Ithaca, New York.

In keeping with the Grey Art Gallery’s tradition of presenting the work of under-represented artists, this exhibition introduces John Wood as a master of various multi-media processes and testifies to his insatiable curiosity about new materials and repeated use of favourite sources. Through disciplined but lively investigation of different media, the artist eroded traditional definitions of photography and produced work that is both powerful and subtle. As Lynn Gumpert, Director of the Grey, notes, “John Wood has been a life-long teacher, inspiring and training numerous students, artists, and arts professionals. We are honoured to bring the breadth of his work to New York City, home to many art schools, colleges, and universities.”

Text from the Grey Art Gallery website and press release [Online] Cited 10/05/2009 no longer available online


John Wood. 'Eagle Pelt' 1985


John Wood (American, 1922-2012)
Eagle Pelt
Gelatin silver print
20 1/8 x 15 3/8″


John Wood (American, 1922-2012) 'Pear Tree, Cooling Tower, and Apples' 1991


John Wood (American, 1922-2012)
Pear Tree, Cooling Tower, and Apples
Collage, gelatin silver print, Polaroid SX70, and paper
19 1/4 x 15 3/8″


John Wood. 'Blackbird, Some Have Hunger' 1986


John Wood (American, 1922-2012)
Blackbird, Some Have Hunger
Collage, cyanotype, and graphite
20 x 24″



International Center of Photography

Quiet Protest is a series of photographic works by the noted mixed media artist and educator John Wood, spanning a period from the 1960s through the 1990s. Part of a larger retrospective at New York University’s Grey Art Gallery, the “Quiet Protest” series explores political and social issues of the day through thoughtful photo montage pieces that exist in marked contrast to more traditional aggressive documentary photography. Rather than offering explanations or promoting solutions, Wood’s manipulated photographs present contemplative routes into issues ranging from the Vietnam War to domestic gun violence to ecological concerns. As Wood wrote in 1970, ” …maybe the time has come for creative photography to encompass the large problems without propaganda or journalism…”

Text from the International Center of Photography website [Online] Cited 10/05/2009 no longer available online


John Wood. 'Rifle, Bullets and Daises' 1967


John Wood (American, 1922-2012)
Rifle, Bullets and Daises


Triangle in the Landscape: Eleven Second 90 Degree Turn of a Paper Triangle, August 6, 1985 (Hiroshima Day)


John Wood (American, 1922-2012)
Triangle in the Landscape: Eleven Second 90 Degree Turn of a Paper Triangle
August 6, 1985 (Hiroshima Day)



John Wood (1922-2012)

John Cheney Wood (July 10, 1922 – July 20, 2012) was an American artist and educator who challenged traditional photography and often incorporated other mediums into his work. He was born in California in 1922. In 1943 he volunteered for the Army Air Corps, where he served as a B-17 pilot until 1945. At the time of his death he lived in Baltimore, Maryland, with artist Laurie Snyder.

Wood had the ability to work across a variety of artistic forms, from straight photography, collage, cliché verre, solarization, mixed media, offset lithography to drawing. Wood moved freely between conceptual and visual exploration, not adhering to a single style. Although he often raised questions about political, social and environmental issues, he avoided promoting personal solutions or adding narratives to the images. The artist instead preferred to focus on the viewer’s interpretation and the possibility for multiple meanings.

Text from the Wikipedia website


John Wood. 'Loon, Drawer and Bomb' 1987


John Wood (American, 1922-2012)
Loon, Drawer and Bomb
Collage, cyanotype, and toned silver gelatin print



Grey Art Gallery
New York University
100 Washington Square East

Opening hours:
Monday – Friday: 12.00 – 5.00pm
Closed weekends

Grey Art Gallery website


International Center of Photography
79 Essex Street New York, NY 10002
between Delancey Street and Broome Street

Opening hours:
Wednesday – Monday: 11.00 am – 7.00 pm
Closed Tuesdays

International Center of Photography website



In his introductory essay to this monograph – featuring the diverse photo practice that has characterised John Wood’s nearly 50-year career – David Levi Strauss states, “In photo-historical terms, Wood is thought of as one of those renegades who went against ‘pure photography’ by incorporating drawing, painting, collage and every other technique he could get his hands on (not to mention explicit political content), into his practice, thus ushering in the multi-media of the 1960s that caused crisis in ‘straight photography.’ Long before it became the signal medium of the avant-garde, collage was a folk art, practiced by children, lovers and grandmothers.” This comprehensive volume accompanies a retrospective that begins in Rochester, New York at The George Eastman House, The Memorial Art Gallery and the Visual Studies Workshop, then travels to The International Center for Photography and The Grey Art Gallery in New York before concluding at Syracus’ Light Work gallery.

John Wood: On the Edge of Clear Meaning by David Strauss et al (Hardcover) 2008

Available from the Amazon website




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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His art work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes Art Blart, an art and cultural memory archive, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Doctor of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne, a Master of Arts (Fine Art Photography) from RMIT University, and a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.

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