The American conceptual artist, William Wegman, who was born in 1943 and lives in New York, follows our exhibition of Photographs (1995) and Polaroids & Other Photographs (1997) with a third solo show of photographic works at Galerie Bugdahn und Kaimer.
Wegman's name is linked inseparably with his photographs of Weimaraner dogs. He first became known for cryptically ironic photographic and video works (with and without dogs); but in the 1970s he attained world renown when he discovered the talents of his first Weimaraner dog, Man Ray, as a gifted model and an ideal interpreter of human idiosyncrasies. As Wegman recalls, some dogs dislike being stared at; but Man Ray insisted on it.
In 1979, the Polaroid Corporation invited the artist to test a newly developed camera, the now legendary Polaroid 24 x 20 Inches (60 x 50 cm). Sceptical at first, Wegman familiarised himself with the enormous instrument that looked like a cross between a refrigerator and a cello, as he put it, and soon found himself enthusing over the unusual picture scale. Man Ray as an elephant, trunk, tusks and all, Man Ray as a bat on the ceiling, Man Ray with Native American headgear in a canoe, was the foundation of a remarkable oeuvre - uniquely sharp, large-scale photographs, each a one-off, as only this Polaroid camera can produce - one of only three in existence worldwide.
Fay Ray, a born dog diva, took the baton from Man Ray with no less flair in 1986. Fay opened the door to altogether new motifs. She could move gracefully, assume different positions and poses, arch her neck, turn her head round, cross her legs. She liked to impress him, William Wegman says.
Meanwhile her offspring, and even theirs, pose in front of the camera. The birth of Fay's pups in 1989 provided Wegman with the cast of his works in the 1990s. Three puppies, Chundo, Battina and Crooky, grew up watching their famous mother modelling, and when it was their own turn, they were already well initiated. Now, the next generation - Chip, Bobbin and Candy - is already in place at the centre of Wegman's pieces.
William Wegman is not a photographer like any other, who happens to take pictures of dogs. He is one of the most interesting photographers of our times, a master in his handling of the medium, versed in generating from the interplay with his dogs one new, startling pictorial idea after the other, sublime in quality and originality. Many of his photographs have the appearance of paintings and recall subtle still life compositions and film sequences. Apart from which his Weimaraners remain unsurpassed in beauty, expressive power and elegance.
Photographs by Wegman can be seen in exhibitions in museums and international galleries the world over and have entered all the larger collections. In the interim, he has developed into a multi-media virtuoso in painting, drawing, photography, film and video art. A retrospective of his work has toured many venues in the U.S. including the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, and beyond, in Japan and Europe. A large exhibition of his drawings has been shown in France.
Besides film segments regularly featured in Sesame Street, Wegman has also made films and videos for such programmes as Saturday Night Live and Nickelodeon. His film, The Hardly Boys in Hardly Gold, was shown to great acclaim at the 1995 Sundance Film Festival.
Today William Wegman and his Weimaraners are amongst the most popular figures on the international art and media scene.