Assembly: Eight Emerging Photographers From Southern California
Written by Edward Robinson
Associate Curator, Wallis Annenberg Photography Department,
Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)

Contemporary U.S. Photography, Fotofest 2010 Biennial  (Catalogue)
Houston TX, March 12 – April 25, 2010
Published by Fotofest Inc., Houston, and Schilt Publishing, Amsterdam
Distributed by Fotofest Inc. and Thames & Hudson, London


Augusta Wood explores the persistence of memory and the ways in which imagery and text can interact to give meaning to experience. Her photographs serve as both documents of existing spaces—domestic residences, landscapes, sites private and public—and constructions into which she inserts the additional markings of words. In so doing, the artist pursues her stated desire to interrupt the normative “presumption of pictorial stability.” Wood incorporates phrases—etched in snow, stitched over a window screen, drawn across the floor (in honey and dead bees)—culled from a personal archive that combines her own poignant remarks with texts published by others. In one image, the phrase “the chaos of warm things,” a line attributable to Jonathan Franzen’s novel The Corrections, appears in words shown as shadows thrown across a kitchen corner by the late afternoon sunlight. Other phrases seen in her images, such as “unfolding in pieces,” do not so readily offer up their origins, though are likely the artist’s own. By virtue of bestowing personal attachment onto texts through the very act of their collection and deployment, Wood makes the distinction between author and beholder insignificant. In her poetic scenes, which are both true and fictional, the multiple roles of the artist—author, director, collaborator—gain a heightened attention and ambiguity. Wood’s fascination with using the interplay of word and image to create new meaning recalls the work of such diverse artists and thinkers as Italo Calvino, Roland Barthes, Ed Ruscha, and Barbara Kruger. Yet through the intensity of her vision and the poignancy of her textual adaptations, Wood achieves a particularly powerful balance between ambiguity and significance.

Photographic exploration also provides the artist with ways to understand the relationship of the past to the present. Wood describes her concern as one of the “mapping” and “navigation” of personal history. In her most recent series, I have only what I remember (2009-2010), Wood continues to investigate the ways photography can elicit meaning from the personal archive that is memory and the ways its association with a sense of place can shape identity. As seen in Sesame Street (1980, 2008) (2009), she revisits what was once the center of her early life, the former home of her grandparents, now emptied in final preparation for its sale to new inhabitants. Wood projects into these rooms multiple, overlapping family snapshots that bring to life once more the arts, artifacts, figures, and circumstances that shaped her past experiences and thus her present memories. The sight of herself as a small child standing before an obsolete television set—the construction of the documented past—elicits an inescapable reckoning with past experience, urging us to recall anew the former presence of rooms and relationships that shape our current selves.