John Wood (1922-2012) was an educator and artist whose practice transcended divisions of media. Wood taught with distinction at Alfred University from 1954 to 1987 where he developed the photo, graphic design, book arts, printmaking, and foundation programs in the School of Art & Design. Wood was a revered and influential professor who described his aesthetic practice as “being in a state of drawing” and grounded in his personalized forms of “System Drawing.” These philosophies, prominent throughout this exhibition, are the connective tissue for his life’s work.
The exhibition focuses on the relationship between Wood’s visual scholarship and its expression through diverse media, extending through more than 25 different forms and variants. Among the media are drawings on various substrates, including a range of papers, rocks, and sand, and an equivalent variety of print media, including intaglio, etching, lithographs, woodcuts, silkscreen, and photography. The photographic works are themselves in a range of formats, from cyanotypes to multi-media collages. Many of the works seen here have never been exhibited before. In his work, Wood did not offer answers to questions, instead presenting pathways for consideration. His work took on a range of subjects, but ultimately, they were platforms for conversation on topics of environmental, political, and social concerns.
Nearly all Wood’s notes, writings on art, and preparatory works have been held and archived by members of his family. This record of achievement and discovery stretches back from 1948 into the new millennium. John Wood: The System is Alive is a selection from an in-depth examination of over 900 of Wood’s artworks including sketchbooks, one-of-a-kind experimental artist’s books, drawings, print works and collages, bringing forth a profound reinterpretation and important new appreciation of the depth and breadth of an artist generally remembered as master photographer and educator.
Wood’s artwork is in collections nationally. These include Baltimore Museum of Art, Center for Creative Photography, George Eastman House, J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles County Museum, The Museum of Modern Art, The National Gallery of Canada, The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery, and many others. This exhibition, curated by Joseph Scheer with support and advisement from Carol Wood and Andrew Deutsch and organized with help from the supportive team at the Institute for Electronic Arts at Alfred University is presented with support from the Tower Family Fund, and the Wendt Foundation. Thanks to Carol Wood and family for all their great work, and Anthony Bannon, PhD for his review and advice on the broad spectrum of the artist’s career. Special thanks to Laurie Snyder for her work in archiving Wood’s work and her research into his career and biography. She and John Wood were married from 1996 to his death in 2012. They met in 1985.
John Wood: The System is Alive is made possible through the generosity of The Margaret L. Wendt Foundation and the Tower Family Fund. Our sincere thanks, also, to Buffalo State University and our generous Burchfield Penney Members.