Exhibition Review: John Wood at Bruce Silverstein Gallery
John Wood, there is waste in everything at Bruce Silverstein Gallery June 8 – August 11
Written by Adriana Kidon
John Wood’s work is often referred to as “quiet protest” and a plea for his viewers’ awareness. Known as a master of process, Wood challenged traditional photography and incorporated a variety of mediums into his work. His multi-layered compositions incorporate photography, collage, cliché verre, solarization, mixed media, offset lithography, and drawing, which focus on social and environmental issues that have motivated Wood’s works since the early 1960’s.
His current installation at Bruce Silverstein Gallery showcases several of his most politically motivated pieces that were included in his traveling retrospective book, On the Edge of Clear Meaning (Steidl, 2009). Wood addresses issues such as gun violence, nuclear waste, and ecological concerns without introducing any of his own personal opinions or viable solutions.
His work references the unrestricted nature of democracy and encourages viewers to find their own meaning in his art, recognizing the possibility for multiple interpretations. In his assessment of Wood’s art, David Levi Strauss, poet, essayist, art and cultural critic, and educator, wrote, “Wood has always been careful to leave some leeway for viewers to find meaning in his work, thus implicating us in that making. He also implicates us, as citizens, in the problems he addresses. We are responsible for what happens,” (2008).
Displayed in a small and intimate space, works including L.B.J. and Hands (1965), Rifle with Cloud (1967), and Cooling Tower: With What Will We Store Our Waste (1991) encourage conversation among gallery visitors regarding industrialization and its accompanying consequences. Interview (1999) introduces a poetic dialogue concerning waste in the Polaroid process. Eagle Pelt (1985) portrays our nation’s symbolic bird with bound talons, conveying Wood’s perception of the direction the country was heading at the time. Loudspeaker Collage (1960s) symbolizes media outlets and the accessible means of rapidly spreading information, true or false.
By displaying these works three decades later, visitors of there is waste in everything are able to recognize the repetitive, cyclical nature of history and the true ramifications of our reckless and destructive nature on our reality.