Ann Lauterbach on Brian Wood

Brian Wood,  Swarm , Ink and photo on mylar    Collection: The Museum of Modern Art, NYC

Brian Wood, Swarm, Ink and photo on mylar

Collection: The Museum of Modern Art, NYC


 The Gods of the earth and sea, 
 Sought thro' Nature to find this Tree
 But their search was all in vain:
 There grows one in the Human Brain
                                                   -William Blake

                    There are two ways of knowing things, knowing
                     them immediately or intuitively, and knowing
                     them conceptually or representatively.

                                                                       -William James 

CATEGORIES DEFY THEIR IMPERATIVES; edges are uneasy in new light: woodsmoke in air, smokey air, scent, cloud and, on the evening screen, video flames. This moves to the place of that as subjects come unbound from their syntax; names for things arc dismantled from their objects like so many ribbons, wrappings, strewn on the floor of history. Into this attenuated breach come questions of authenticity, belief: what is real? what true? We are implored: look again.

Look at what? We are asked to reconsider the nature of a frame, that it might be arbitrary, fugitive, less than full because closed. Or, more positively, chosen: this riddle of fingers, that ancient vessel, this scrap of tree. Or something we cannot quite identify because it has been pulled up close into our perceptual field to be re-construed, interpreted. The way an event, say, becomes a memory belonging to you, only yours. We know someone's body was present, braiding elsewhere with now. So the frame narrates space.

An event. An eventuality. What is evident.

Or to revise our notion of speed. Hand, eye. The hand is quicker than the eye, whispers the alchemist. Whose? Where? When? The camera's shameless blink, or the wrist, poised like a hummingbird above the blank page?  Blur of foliage against some sky, the cast and flick of a brush on watery ground:  stillness, motion, flatness, depth, opacity, luminosity: coordinates of perception test what is and what is not yet.

Delay throws a shadow across the instant, curiosity couples with patience:  waiting to find out what will emerge from the emulsion's uncertain fluidity. Seeing as a form of touch, touch as a way of seeing. The gaze as an act of intimacy, projecting the body into space (there), taking it in as the body is extended into the sensual persuasion of drawing (here).  The body's signature in the marvelous exposure of singular attention.

Coming to the place of doubt. We feel insecure, abandoned, too much relinquished to what is already (t)here. Fatigued with choices we seek coherence, but it will not suffice if it is merely in the service of known limits.  Possibilities arise when one code (drawing) invades another (photography), rupturing expectations, thwarting our assumptions. What to risk, what cherish? Psyche awakes to embrace Eros, illuminating her tasks, revealing what has been accomplished, and proceeds to the next place, neither coerced nor anticipated. As certain logics might lead ineluctably to what we know but do not yet understand: send our instruments into the heavens to find out what the angels are wearing today.

The visual resembles and dissembles. Abstraction is a human enchantment, a language. And facts glide down like so many ashes, like wet snow falling from a branch into icy waters. So the real is pried loose at last, leaving the nude stain of meaning on the slippery rock. What mediates in this wash of incommensurates are forms that arise from particulars (seeing, touching) in trajectories of applied response. The interior erupts onto the exterior;  recognitions blur and focus.  Now I am inside it, not looking at it but at its entanglement. Inherently deferential, the image is fathomed as a gesture toward, as if magic were structure.

Ann Lauterbach