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Monday, March 9, 2020

Rob Woodcox

Dunes Tree, Rob Woodcox
Many years ago, as a high school art instructor I taught a unit on conceptual art. Most people do not like such works...many, in fact, wouldn't even consider them art. Such art is almost always on the "cutting edge" and therefore cuts deep into any traditional definition of art. Unlike most works of art in which the artist chooses a category--landscapes, still-lifes, portraits, etc. Conceptual art deals with ideas (concepts) which are inevitably difficult to render and often so opaque they are likewise difficult to understand. The prime example of such art which comes to mind is Joseph Kosuth's Chair (below) in which he first hung on the gallery wall a dictionary definition, followed by a drawing of a simple, wooden folding chair, next to which hung a photo of that chair followed by an actual chair hanging next to it--thus the concept "chair." and the broad gulf between the description and the real thing.

Chair, 1965, Joseph Kosuth
In an attempt to illustrate conceptual art to my teenage students I invented a "concept generator" on my Commodore-64 computer (this would have been in the early 1980s). The program asked that the user enter twelve random nouns and twelve random adverbs. The computer then added verbs such as drinking, walking, thinking, etc. The result were largely nonsensical phrases such as "cats drinking stupidly," or "neckties thinking wildly, etc. Most of the nearly unlimited number of "concepts" were useless, some were comical, while others seemed strangely wise in an "outside the box" manner. The students' job was to choose one phrase, then "explore" that concept beyond simply illustrating it. Today, Rob Woodcox is a conceptual artist. However, as a former photographer he has chosen to "marry" the two using nude and seminude figures as in his Dunes Tree (top). It would seem that conceptual art has come a long way since Kosuth's folding chair.

The Mountain, Rob Woodcox

Woodcox has also paired his fascination with geological and human forms, witness the beauty of humans living in harmony with the world around them in a book featuring full page gallery spreads in vivid color. From pink salt flats to deep blue mountain lakes to the recesses of a burnt orange canyon, Rob’s visuals are diverse in every sense of the word. Bodies Of Light (right) is a true dreamers paradise, compelling the viewer to examine one’s own presence on this planet, and the beauty we all have the power to access and preserve. With written excerpts channeling Rob’s inner voice of inspiration and imagination, we get an all-inclusive ticket into a world beyond our own.

Bodies of Light by Rob Woodcox

Rob Woodcox
In creating his book Rob promised himself that at least 50% of the photos had to be of people. He recalls always being super imaginative and wanting to capture the environment as well as the people. He has dabbled in drawing and painting throughout the years, creating his own dreamscapes on paper, eventually decided to focus on photography in college. He had no other reason than a feeling that it was for best for him as an artist. He didn’t have the patience for the other more secluded art forms and enjoyed the process of engaging with models, locations, etc. He sensed he couldn’t live with himself doing something he didn’t love. That stubborn voice pushed him through part-time jobs and societal expectations to the point that he has now been a self-sustained artist for seven years. He finds it hard to realize that he's come so far never really having support from his immediate family. However the artist community has been overwhelmingly supportive over the years.

The nude form in an urban environment
Rob went to a photography school in Detroit and got an associates degree learning the basics of photography. From there he learned many of the techniques he currently uses on his own. From tutorials and sharing techniques with friends to simply practicing, he taught myself a lot and eventually just dove into client work and teaching workshops.

Time Travel, Rob Woodcox, a blend of in-camera creativity and digital editing.
One of the most striking elements in Woodcox's work is that some images are partially composed digitally, while others clearly aren’t. Yet looking behind the scenes, he still goes to great lengths to achieve certain effects practically instead of digitally. The question thus arises, where to draw the line between wanting to capture something in-camera versus trying to achieve something similar in Photoshop? Woodcox notes that in having a strong focus on conceptual photography for 11 years he's learned where those lines are⁠—where something will start to look fake if the light doesn’t match between the background and model(s), or where a composition becomes too overwhelming. He constantly works at matching the subjects to the environment thus making a much more successful end result. He goes to great lengths to produce imagery in surreal locations as well as the studio when that is called for.

Not all of Woodcox's work involves multi-figural compositions.
Having enjoyed backpacking as a hobby since he was 14, and his love of practical effects in movies. Rob Woodcox has developed a particular skill for combining bizarre landscapes with performance art and styling techniques that surprise his audience and usually garner a lot of questions. He finds it quite entertaining to field questions as to which pieces are completely real versus slightly enhanced with Photoshop. Usually people can’t figure out which is which. He also owes a huge debt to his collaborators—the dancers, models, makeup artists, body painters and stylists who enhance his visions dramatically. He started out painting and gluing things to models himself, but usually works with collaborators these days.

El Espíritu Asciende 1, Rob Woodcox and dancers
While Woodcox is a master at capturing bodies frozen in motion. He has never actually taken a dance class. He credits his fascination with theater, film, and performance art as having initially pushed him to start working with dancers. After his first shoot with dancers he recalls being stunned by their ability to move effortlessly and create shapes he had never seen before. He didn’t even need to direct much, only express an emotion or story-line, then allow the dancers to use their inherent awareness of their own bodies to deliver stunning shapes for the camera. He likens it to tasting food from a chef then trying to go back to microwave dinners⁠—there’s nothing that compares to working with dancers.

Box Boys, Rob Woodcox
On the road across the desert.
Rob: has been inspired by the likes of Tim Walker, Eugenio Recuenco, RenĂ© Magritte, Leonora Carrington, Annie Leibovitz, Salvador Dali, Rich-ard Avedon and more. He loves all visual art forms and often pulls inspiration from paint and performance arts. His book encompasses all his most surreal work to date. A few of the images even date back to 2011. A whole decade of his life's work. He shot exclusive new work for the book on a road trip through the desert, and all his dance work is included as well. It’s 180 pages of vibrant, con-scious photographs and writ-ing from his travels. Its mostly visual but there are 10 short-form written pieces that follow the thematic journey as viewers flip through the pages.

Spontaneous Creation, Rob Woodcox

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