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 into his practice, thus ushering in the multi-media 1960s that caused a crisis in "straight photography." — From the introduction by David Levi Strauss to On the Edge of Clear Meaning by John Wood

ROCHESTER, N.Y. — A collaborative retrospective celebrating the work of John Wood will be launched this fall in Rochester, N.Y. and then travel to New York City, before embarking on a national tour. The exhibition titled John Wood: On the Edge of Clear Meaning considers Wood's career as photographer, artist, and educator. The exhibition is a collaboration among five institutions: Rochester's George Eastman House International Museum of Photography & Film, Visual Studies Workshop, and Memorial Art Gallery of the University of Rochester, along with New York City's International Center of Photography (ICP) and the Grey Art Gallery of New York University.

The exhibition's selection of more than 213 pieces is the most comprehensive display of Wood's work to date, and encompasses the full range of his prolific career from the late-1950s to the present. Wood, 86, pioneered the use of multimedia collage."John Wood's work refuses to be shoehorned into one style," said Nathan Lyons, exhibition curator. "He is a master of processes, including straight photography, collage, cliché verre, solarization, mixed media, offset lithography, and drawing. John's work freely moves between process and concept." Due to the scale of the exhibition, John Wood: On the Edge of Clear Meaning is being shown concurrently at the participating institutions, first in Rochester and then in New York City. In Rochester, the exhibition will be displayed in three different locations:
  • Memorial Art Gallery, 500 University Ave. (Sept. 5-Jan. 11, 2009): "Works on Paper" will include watercolors, blue prints, cyanotypes, wax drawings, mixed media, and a selection of whimsical sculptures referred to as "whirligigs."
  • George Eastman House, 900 East Ave. (Sept. 10 -Jan. 17, 2009): "Quiet Protest" will feature Wood's work dealing with social and ecological issues.
  • Visual Studies Workshop, 31 Prince St. (Oct. 17 -Jan. 17, 2009): "On the Edge of Clear Meaning" will showcase Wood's serial investigations, including a selection of his book works, collages, and montages, as well as his sand and rock drawings.

The exhibition will then open in 2009 at Grey Art Gallery, on view May 12 to July 18 and ICP from May 15 to Sept. 6. ICP will feature the "Quiet Protest" portion of the exhibition and Grey Art Gallery will feature the balance of the work.

The national tour of John Wood: On the Edge of Clear Meaning will begin with a display of the full exhibition at Syracuse University's SUArt Gallery from October 2009 to January 2010. John Wood: On the Edge of Clear Meaning, a comprehensive monograph on Wood's work, will be published in fall 2008 (Steidl, 176 pages, $65). The book includes 168 color illustrations—from photographs and prints to drawings and artist's books. It features an essay by David Levi Strauss, a biography and extensive bibliography compiled by William S. Johnson, and an assessment of Wood's important role as an educator for more than 30 years by Ezra Shales. A DVD, accompanying both the book and exhibition, includes a recent interview with Wood and a page-turning program that allows the viewer interactive access to seven of his artist's books. The exhibition, its national tour, and accompanying book are curated and coordinated by Nathan Lyons, director emeritus of the Visual Studies Workshop, in collaboration with Marie Via, director of exhibitions for the Memorial Art Gallery, and Dr. Alison Nordström, curator of photographs for George Eastman House. John Wood Symposium A John Wood Symposium, moderated by Jessie Shefrin, provost with Rhode Island School of Design, will be held at Visual Studies Workshop from 10 to 11:30 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 18. Admission is free. More About John Wood John Wood taught photography and printmaking for 35 years at the School of Art and Design at Alfred University in Alfred, N.Y. As an artist, he has exhibited extensively and is represented in most major photographic collections. At a time when specialization in art was the norm, Wood exhibited work in photography, drawing, printmaking and artist's books. His unique books especially bring the power of his ideas into a cohesive whole. Wood was born in California in 1922, where his early childhood was marked by the effects of the Depression. His family made frequent moves, as his father sought stable employment. While in third grade John began taking drawing classes at the Memorial Art Gallery in Rochester, N.Y. At age 20, in1942 he volunteered for the Army Air Corps, where he trained as a B-17 pilot. After the war, Wood was determined to study art and design. He trained as a visual designer and photographer at the Institute of Design in Chicago, studying with Harry Callahan and Art Sinsabaugh. Wood currently resides in Baltimore 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, N.Y.