EL CAJON — In his show at the Grossmont College Art Gallery (8800 Grossmont College Drive), John Charles Woods proves himself a loyal progeny of several esteemed, though a bit worn, traditions in photography. His two most obvious spiritual fathers are Edward Weston and Aaron Siskind, from whom Woods derives his basic, formal approach to the natural and man-made environment.
Using a vocabulary of shadows, lights, reflections and textures, Woods creates images of great formal beauty, exploiting the preciousness of his and his predecessors' approach only occasionally with such visual cliches as reflections of floating reeds and patterns of oil on water. Most of the work here, however, dating from 1974-86, shows the artist to have a fresh, distinct vision.
His strongest compositions transform objects and places into pure design. Woods' tight framing divorces the forms from their normal context, and their resultant ambiguity gives them a new, unforeseen power. The forms in "Lava Falls" (Hawaii, 1981), for instance, lacking any sense of scale or connection to the environment, read as grotesquely animate folds of flesh.
Woods is extremely sensitive to minute permutations in the environment created by time, erosion and wear. He focuses on the bullet-pocked, peeling surface of a road sign and a crusty patch of earth with equal scrutiny, printing them both with pristine clarity and richness of tone.
According to the artist's statement in the gallery, Woods' images make no pretense to hidden, metaphoric meanings. They are simply records of his vision--a perceptive vision, acutely aware of the expansive still life around us.
The show continues through Oct. 22.