The photographs in William Wegman: Good Dogs on Nice Furniture, currently on view at Imago Galleries in Palm Desert, California, show Wegman’s always agreeable dogs posed on furniture by Herman Miller, Charles and Ray Eames, and George Nelson. In honor of this new body of work, we're looking back at one well-loved prop from the early days: namely, a chair that made its way back to him from California to New York, years after he left his studio there.
Here’s what WW has to say about that chair:
“This chair was in my studio in Santa Monica. That was about the third year I was working on photos. I started in Wisconsin, then when I moved to L.A., I was teaching at Cal State Long Beach and living in San Pedro. I got Man Ray the first month that I moved to L.A. in 1970, and he became an occasional prop and collaborator both in video and in these early photo pieces.
This chair was one of six like it. I don’t remember how I got them. They became used as a simple prop. A chair is always used in philosophy as a demonstrator, and so I used it in that sense, too, just as a basic prop. I like the way that it was so simple and non-decorative -- kind of absurdly so in some of them. The most significant work that I can remember is a video called Massage Chair, where I specifically pretend that it is one. As far as the photo pieces, I used it in one sentence work Paris In The Spring, where I added another “The,” which you may or may not notice.
When I moved to New York--I thought temporarily -- I loaned and then ultimately gave my studio to John Baldessari, and when I was stopping in to visit my studio and John, I noticed a chair there and was really excited about it. John mailed it to me two or three years ago, and that is why I have it.”
Prints of the iconic 1987 polaroid Roller Rover are available now on 20 x 200! Here's what WW says about creating the piece:
"I happened to have two pair of matching roller skates when I brought Fay to the Polaroid 20x24 studio at 588 Broadway that day in 1987, but was not expecting her to actually be able to perform in them as well as she did. The trick was to tilt the back skate to thwart the rolling. I took four or five shots, and the best was this version, with her head looking back. Fay was about a year and a half old and had the ideal figure for skating, I think."
"Dogs' personalities shine through in front of the camera, he said. It was true for Man Ray, who became "very calm and interested" when Wegman would point a camera at him. Same goes for Flo and Topper, who "loves to be on top of things."
"'You really fall in love with them taking their pictures,' he said. 'You learn so much about them.'"