“WILLIAM WEGMAN AND NO DOGS”
As 2007 begins Galerie Bugdahn und Kaimer opens its new exhibition space at Mutter-Ey-Strasse 5 with a cross-section of the graphic side to William Wegman’s oeuvre. The gallery location comes well-endowed with historical patina as far as contemporary art is concerned. From 1983 to 1992 it was the Old Town ‘annexe’ of Konrad Fischer’s gallery.
Having shown exhibitions of Wegman’s photographic works and Polaroids in 1995, 1997 and 2004, Galerie Bugdahn und Kaimer now presents a further group of works by this American artist (*1943; currently based in New York) who is equally at home in the media of painting, drawing, video, film and photography.
Like the early videos and photographic pieces, the drawings form something like the continuing underlying structure of his artistic output and well display Wegman’s conceptual way of seeing which, in the far more overt, often glamorous set-ups with his Weimaraner dogs, operates more covertly, from behind the spectacle.
The present selection of some thirty works (ranging in size from 16.5 x 22.2 cm to 38 x 58.4 cm) dates from the period between 1973 and 2001. Its range of different motifs and the versatility with which the different media (Indian ink, sepia, pencil, graphite, pastel, coloured pencil, watercolour, gouache, shellac and collage elements such as from photographs, playing cards and pages from glossy magazines) come into play are impressive. As in his painting, Wegman changes from one stylistic ‘hand’ to another, plays with the concept of authorship and tilts at known and ‘seriously’ acknowledged trends in art (Homage to ‘Albers’). A highly recurrent feature consists of his winks at the advertising illustration style of the 1950s – in Tphappy, The Three Ways, Waving at Dumptrucks, or Lose Weight by Eating Less. Then there is a group of works that stands on its own, the Altered Greeting Cards, altered in that Wegman subtly changes their message with his additions. Similar in tactic are the Altered Magazines, individual pages having additions of form – faces, hands and so on. The single work I feel faint, an extremely filigree drawing verging on the no longer perceivable to the viewer’s eye, intimates the disappearance of both the operative self or subject and of the work of art. Its counterpart is Messy Room, the incarnation of the archetypical wildly gestural ‘Artist’s Drawing’. In Scissors, Wegman develops analogies of form between the handle of a bucket and two blades of a pair of scissors; in another drawing a rectangular block bears the inscription, Bible on the front face – while, along one side, ‘Kellogs’ can be read. Both these works are illustrative examples of how the artist freely shifts the object qualities and the levels of reality and significance about and combines them anew. He does so not with the notorious dry-as-dust earnestness of Concept Art, but in a subversive, humorous approach and a sure-fire instinct for the absurd or sometimes for the whimsically funny or again, the bitterness of the cynical. Critical undertones emerge where the economic, social and political circumstances of the ‘American Way of Life’ are concerned, as in pieces like 50 Gallons Gravy and Minimum Security Jail.
To describe Wegman’s artistic procedure as an ‘unmasterful yet masterly way with words and images’, as Joan Simon did in 2006, is highly apt. Funney / Strange are terms that both apply at once to his drawings that defy clear categories and often seem like a mysterious conundrum, with a low melancholy undertone and the habit, in their technical execution, of running through the entire gamut from the ascetic to the voluptuous..
The Private View is on Friday, January 16, 6 – 9 pm. Exhibition to March 3, 2007
The Gallery is open Tu. – Fri. 12 noon – 6 pm, Sat. 12 noon – 4 pm; and by appointment.