Williams College Museum of Art

left: original 1846 rotunda, now the Faison Gallery, sculpture: Robert Morris, Hearing, 1972, © 1986 Steve Rosenthal; right: the atrium with WALLWORKS installation by William Ramage, 1988, photo by Nicholas Whitman

Williamstown, Massachusetts




William Wegman: Drawing, Video, Painting, Photography

July 3-September 6, 1999


"William Wegman: Drawing, Video, Painting, Photography," an exhibition featuring over 50 works, opens Saturday, July 3 and continues through September 6, 1999 at the Williams College Museum of Art (WCMA). The exhibition is drawn primarily from Wegman's own collection and includes drawings and paintings from the 1970s, 80s, and 90s, as well as a selection of videos from the 1970s. New work will include a reel of videos completed in 1998 and a series of Polaroid photographs of his Weimeraner dogs.

Wegman once said, "They always ask me what my art stands for, and I tell them it doesn't stand, it sits." This quip reflects the humorous and playful approach to art found in his ink and pencil drawings. In Gulls/Waves (1973), Wegman pares down drawing to make birds and sea using only the letter v. All of the drawings in the exhibition promise to elicit both laughter and curiosity from viewers.

Also on view is a selection of Wegman's paintings, which are often as quirky and tongue-in-cheek as his drawings. Turner (1989), features two mirror images of the Houses of Parliament floating in an ambiguous field of gold, reminiscent of paintings by 19th-century English landscape painter, William Turner. While the title pays homage to the artist, it also sets up a visual joke-the painting is the same when viewed both upside-down and right-side up.

A highlight of the exhibition is an extensive compilation of Wegman's early videos from 1970-74. In these short videos-on average one minute long-mistakes, makeshift sets, simple props, and unsophisticated special effects are deliberately pushed to humorous ends. In the hilarious Spelling Lesson (1972), Wegman, with deadpan delivery, instructs a bewildered Man Ray (his first Weimeraner, purchased on a whim for $35) on the finer points of spelling.

A recent series of Polaroid photographs continues the work begun by Wegman in 1979, when he was invited to the Polaroid studios in Cambridge, Massachusetts to use a gigantic camera with the capacity to create instant 24 x 20-inch prints. Over the past 20 years Wegman has been using this camera to photograph his Weimeraners, first Man Ray, and after Man Ray's death in 1982, Fay Ray, Battina, Chip, and Chundo. The new work, both black and white and color photographs, features dogs posed against monochromatic backdrops, and includes both dense groupings of many dogs, and pristine, minimal details of their bodies.

"William Wegman: Drawing, Video, Painting, Photography" has been organized by WCMA assistant curator Ian Berry in collaboration with William Wegman, with assistance from WCMA curatorial interns, Alanna Gedgaudas MA'00 and Amy Hamlin MA'00. At the museum's public summer reception on Saturday, July 10th from 5 to 7 p.m., Berry will give a gallery talk about the exhibition at 5:30 p.m.

Images from top to bottom: William Wegman (b. 1943), Lunar, 1998, b/w Polaroid, 24 x 20 inches, collection of the artist; Turner, 1989, oil and acrylic on canvas, 50 x 60 inches, collection of the artist; Dock Scene, 1985, oil on canvas, 14 x 19 inches, collection of the artist.

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