Artists Including Me: William Wegman
William Wegman is best known for his heartwarming and amusing photographs of his Weimaraner dogs. Artists Including Me: William Wegman introduces another very personal side of this widely loved artist. With his signature quick wit, Wegman reflects on his life as an artist and on his artistic heroes. Here, he reimagines arthistorical masterpieces and art-world scenarios. Wegman’s alternative versions are part homage, part visual pun, and part parody.
Among the artistic ancestors to whom he pays tongue-in-cheek tribute are Leonardo da Vinci, Edward Hopper, and Wassily Kandinsky, as well as landmark nineteenth-century Bay Area photographers Carleton Watkins (known for his sweeping views of Yosemite Valley) and Eadweard Muybridge (whose pioneering studies of motion were done at Palo Alto Stock Farm, Leland Stanford’s property that is now part of Stanford University). Wegman also toys with the pretenses and oddities of the museum world by “installing” picture postcards of artworks and architectural monuments in the fictional museum spaces of his collaged paintings.
In these self-reflective works, Wegman invites viewers to imagine what might lie beyond the edge of his picture frame. Along with photographs of Wegman’s beloved dogs, Artists Including Me features a selection of the artist’s early conceptual, cartoonlike drawings from the 1970s and 1980s and his recent faux-naïve paintings. Originally conceived by the Krannert Art Museum, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the exhibition has been expanded significantly for its presentation at SJMA with new photographs showing the artist’s canine companions carefully posed on elegant, iconic modernist chairs designed by Charles and Rae Eames; a video parody of an “artist’s lecture”; and five rarely seen, stop-motion videos that Nokia commissioned in 2004 for display on smartphones.
Wegman trained as a painter before abandoning the practice completely during his second year of graduate school in favor of interactive electronics and music. Eventually, he turned his attention to video, performance, and photography, nurtured by his move to Madison, Wisconsin (where he picked up his first video equipment), and then to southern California in 1971. Within the year, Wegman acquired Man Ray, his legendary blue Weimaraner, and thus began his long and playful collaboration with man’s best friend. He took up painting again in 1985 though he kept this practice separate from his canine photography. Throughout his work in various media, Wegman often takes an approach that is idiosyncratic and slightly subversive. His conceptual interests continually color his work, especially his love of language and visual puns and his gentle mockery of art-world hierarchies.
Organized by the Krannert Art Museum, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and curated by Kathryn Koca Polite and Kathleen Harleman. Sponsored in part by the Krannert Art Museum Exhibition Support Fund. Expanded for presentation at SJMA by the Wegman Studio and Rory Padeken.