William Wegman: Reading Two Books
January 23–March 1, 2003
32 East 57th Street, 9th Floor, New York, NY
Pace/MacGill Gallery is pleased to announce the opening of William Wegman: Reading Two Books, an exhibition of old and very new work. The exhibition will feature Wegman's early conceptual photographs, videos from the 1970s, 20 x 24 inch Polaroids of his world-famous Weimaraners and recent black and white photographs.
A number of seminal works will hang in the exhibition, including Family Combinations (1972), a deadpan, pre-Photoshop analysis of identity based on similar portraits of Wegman, his mother and his father. The sequence of six images morphs the family members' faces and emphasizes their similar features, though in the end, the combination of mother and father looks nothing like the original image of son. In Cotto (1970), the artist's hand reaches for a slice of salami and a pattern of small circles emerges. Inspired by a chance event, this document of a trivial moment demonstrates a fundamental aspect of his work: Wegman consistently embraces what is mundane and leads us to discover meaning and humor in our routine tasks and activities.
A self-described "tech-sensitive artist" who revels in the limitations of the medium, Wegman took a nonchalant, minimalist approach when he began making short, closed circuit video pieces. He focused on themes of identity and perception, but did it with a playfulness that set him apart from his contemporaries – the banal and pedestrian become significant and funny in the hands of Wegman. His generous wit and engaging sense of illusion result in such unforgettable moving images as Singing Stomach (1972). Again, Wegman encourages us to explore life's minor oddities.
In the early 1970s, Wegman began to collaborate with his Weimaraner Man Ray, who proved himself a natural performer when one day allowed on the film set. Wegman went on to photograph Man Ray (and later his second dog, Fay, and in time, her offspring) with the Polaroid 20 x 24, finding novelty in the aesthetic and narrative concerns that are inherent in the format. As both single and multi-panel works, the life-size portraits involve role-play and outright riotous humor, while simultaneously presenting a rigorous examination of formal concerns. In a sophisticated new series of black and white photographs, the playful dogs become amorphous shapes behind a screen. We contemplate them as forms in pictorial space, but all the while their canine identity remains clear.
William Wegman is recognized as a pioneer in conceptual art, performance, video and photography. He has exhibited extensively throughout the United States and Europe. A major monograph of his work, William Wegman Polaroids, was published by Harry Abrams in 2002.