John Cheney Wood is one of the pre-eminent artists and educators of our time. He consistently challenged traditional photography often incorporating other mediums to his work. A master of process, he had the ability to work decisively across a variety of artistic forms with ease, from straight photography, collage, cliché verre, solarization, mixed media, offset lithography to drawing. Wood moved freely between conceptual and visual exploration, refusing to adhere 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.
Born in California in 1922, John Wood’s early childhood was marked by the effects of the Depression. In 1941 he volunteered for the Army Air Corps, where he served as a B-17 pilot. He subsequently trained as a visual designer and photographer at the Institute of Design in Chicago alongside Harry Callahan and Art Sinsabaugh. Wood spent 35 years teaching at the School of Art and Design at Alfred University in New York. His teaching, his art making, and his life were intricately entwined, each reinforcing the other. At the time of his death he lived in Baltimore, Maryland, with the artist Laurie Snyder. Bruce Silverstein has organized two major exhibitions of his work in 2009 and 2012.
Wood has been exhibited widely, including a 2009 retrospective at the International Center of Photography and the Grey Art Gallery in New York. Other exhibitions were held at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Art Institute of Chicago; Philadelphia Art Museum, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; and the George Eastman House, Rochester among others.
His work can be found in most major collections, notably the Center for Creative Photography, Tucson; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Baltimore Museum of Art; Art Institute of Chicago; Museum of Modern Art, New York; National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C.; and at the Visual Studies Workshop, Rochester.
John Wood: On the Edge of Clear Meaning (2008), a comprehensive monograph on Wood’s work brings the power of his ideas into a cohesive whole