In 2015, William Wegman began a series of photographs showcasing some of America’s most iconic mid-century Modern furniture alongside his own best-known models: his Weimaraner dogs. As is the case in all of Wegman’s photographs, extraordinary care is given to the lighting and pose of his subjects, both living and static, so that “Topper” and “Flo” share the spotlight with classic pieces by George Nakashima and Charles and Ray Eames. The artist exploits the medium of the digital pigment print both for its immediacy and for its potential for intensely saturated colors: in tightly structured compositions, Wegman highlights the bright shells and lustrous woods of various Eames chairs and slab tables, as well as the harmonious contrast between these furnishings and the silky coats of the hounds that balance dexterously atop them. Within the images, Topper and Flo appear as sculptural objects, emulating the silhouette and style of the mise-en-scène with its organic, smooth surfaces, and clean, elegant lines. Still, the dogs assume almost human expressions, adding Wegman’s signature humor, irony, and playfulness to the work. The result is a series that suggests less a narrative than a surreal state of affairs captured in real time. Wegman thus continues to refine the ideas that began in his groundbreaking conceptual video work of the 1970s, in which short, staged vignettes using mundane found objects in humorous, improvised scenarios poked fun at the pieties and self-seriousness of Conceptual Art.
William Wegman’s work has been exhibited extensively in museums and galleries in the United States and abroad. The artist’s photographs, drawings and video work can presently be seen in Before/On/After: William Wegman and California Conceptualism at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, on view now through July 15, 2018.