William Wegman's Versatile Humor Survives Man Ray
For people who believe art and humor are strange bedfellows, a visit to the 20-year retrospective of William Wegman at the Whitney Museum of American Art may make them think again.
Mr. Wegman, a Conceptual artist turned painter, is the art world's most amusing heavyweight lightweight -- and its premier dog photographer. He is perhaps best known for turning a cooperative Weimaraner named Man Ray into a virtual art icon, something on the order of a canine Andy Warhol.
Mixing high art with popular culture, Mr. Wegman works in drawing, video and photography as well as painting. He routinely alternates between an endearing childlike naivete and an unerring sense of language and style -- often within the same work. At times, his art can seem so versatile as to be almost schizophrenic.
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William Wegman, Artist, 1971
Please join ICI, Constance Lewallen, and William Wegman for a special conversation on Tuesday, April 3, from 6:30- 8pm at 401 Broadway, Suite 1620, NYC.
Constance Lewallen, co-curator of State of Mind: New California Art Circa 1970, and William Wegman, pioneer video artist, conceptualist, photographer, painter, and writer, will discuss Californian artists’ significant contributions in Conceptual art, video, performance, and installation art in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Rarely seen Wegman videos will be screened, followed by a conversation about the artist’s early work and those with whom he associated.
Read more about the event here.
People often ask me if the puppies I photograph are always my dogs. Usually, they are not. (My last litter was Candy's, in 2004.) A few times a year, some of my weimeraner friends will bring their litters by the studio, and I will work with their puppies.
In recent years I have been photographing puppies raised by Brian and Beth Meany of Syracuse and Gene and Renee LaFollette from Virginia, weimaraner people I met through the late great Jinny Alexander. To many Jinny was queen mother of weimaraners in America. The litters I have shot in the last year have been the first without Jinny's presence. She has been missed.
Last week we photographed three six-week-old little darlings, a litter born from Gene and Renee's dog Java. They were exceptionally, almost unbearably, cute. The most compelling shots were close ups using minimal or no props and complimentary background tones. To achieve this, we used an extension ring, which gave the effect of a macro lens -- we were able to get closer.
Adult dogs can shy from puppies. Not Flo. (Watch a video of Flo interacting with the puppies here.) My favorite is of two puppies sleeping on Flo's back, using her as furniture.
The six-week-old puppies' expressions are so different from those of eight weeks, the age one typically adopts a puppy. At this age they observe us without expectation, just openness. Later they will exhibit a range of emotions for us to interpret as we will.
I love photographing puppies at various stages of their development, but especially love the 5-6 week-ers. They are strong enough to handle and are rather predictable so you can work with them around their daily cycle of sleep-eat-play-sleep. Their eyes are very, very blue at this age. Later they will (typically) turn a yellow amber color.