On Mid-Century Modern Masterpieces
The Series Inspired by Late Furniture Maker George Nakashima
EXCLUSIVE ONLINE EXHIBITION AT LISA SETTE GALLERY
Above, top: William Wegman Benchmark, 2015, pigment print, 23″ x 30″, Edition of 7, 2 APs. Bottom, left: William Wegman 7 Legs, 2015, pigment print, Available in two sizes: 44″ x 34″ and 30″ x 23″, Edition of 7. Bottom, middle: William Wegman Cantilever, 2015, pigment print, Available in two sizes: 44″ x 34″ and 30″ x 23″, Edition of 7. Bottom, right: William Wegman Tabled, 2015, pigment print, Available in two sizes: 44″ x 34″ and 30″ x 23″, Edition of 7.
Since the 1970s, William Wegman has been creating work that blends humor, irony and wit, often taking as his central subjects and muses, his Weimaraners. Through the years, Wegman has often found inspiration in juxtaposing his dogs with furniture.
“I have always enjoyed seeing my dogs on furniture: the couch, the bed, an easy chair and yes up on the table but only in the studio. I have made it a habit of looking for things to accommodate their poses. Usually stuff I find on the street or in dumpsters. Sometimes it comes as a surprise which objects will work. After years and years of lifting and placing them on so many different pedestals I can still be surprised. Sometimes it’s the dog who makes the picture.”
In 2015, he began a series of photographs showcasing some of America’s most iconic Mid-Century Modern furniture, including classic pieces by George Nakashima, alongside his own best-known models: his Weimaraners.
Above, top: William Wegman Addressed, 2015, pigment print, Available in two sizes: 44″ x 34″ and 30″ x 23″, Edition of 7. Bottom: William Wegman Looking Over (diptych), 2015, pigment print, Available in two sizes: 44″ x 34″ each and 30″ x 23″ each, Edition of 7.
On the opportunity to work with George Nakashima’s furniture, Wegman says:
“I love dogs and I like furniture yet when this opportunity arose to photograph my dogs with a collection of Nakashima masterpieces I found myself oddly hesitant. All that wood. As beautiful as they both are, I couldn’t imagine what I might be able to do. It is usually my own furniture or a stray table or chair discovered on the street that ends up in my pictures and I am not used to treating props with reverence and respect. What to do with work of such serene elegance? The furniture arrived at the studio, seamless colors were selected and – with a great deal of trepidation – we began. By the end of the week of shooting, spirits rose and misgivings vanished. Flo, with her intense will to do the right thing, brought a necessary psychic weight to the process and Topper, posing proudly, a touch of the heroic. My appreciation of the Nakashima aesthetic and profound craftsmanship deepened.”
Above, left: William Wegman One On, 2015, pigment print, Available in two sizes: 44″ x 34″ and 30″ x 23″, Edition of 7. Right: William Wegman Back Up, 2015, pigment print, Available in two sizes: 44″ x 34″ and 30″ x 23″, Edition of 7.
“What struck me about working with my dogs and the Nakashima furniture is how alike they are. Dog and furniture blend together and at times become one and the same. I saw an even deeper connection when I visited Mira Nakashima at the Nakashima studio in New Hope, Pennsylvania, a beautiful and natural setting surrounded and immersed in the soul of the tree. Mira said that her father believed that he was giving a second life to the tree that he used in making his piece. In some way my dogs give that tree a third life.” – William Wegman
ABOUT THE ARTIST
William Wegman began his career as a painter and was included in such groundbreaking exhibitions as the 1969 When Attitudes Become Form at Bern Kunsthalle and the 1972 Documenta V in Kassel. In the early 1970s, he started making short conceptual videos, some of which featured his elegant Weimaraner dog named Man Ray after the American Dadaist artist and photographer. Recorded in a single take on a portable camera, Wegman’s videos used sight gags and immediacy of the medium to create absurdist narratives that undermined the ideals of high art and culture.
Then came the iconic photographs of the dog Man Ray and subsequent generations of Weimaraners belonging to the artist. Wegman photographed them partially hidden in landscapes, marooned in everyday human situations, balanced precariously on modernist furniture or costumed as everyone from fashion models to fairy tale characters. Deadpan, endearing, slyly funny and surreal, these images are a mirror, reflecting our human frailties and psychology as well as illustrating the fallible nature of our actions and motivations.
In 1965, Wegman was awarded his BFA in painting from Massachusetts College of Art and two years later, he received a MFA in painting from University of Illinois of Urbana-Champaign. Throughout his career, he has continued to make paintings, drawings and collages alongside his instantly recognizable images of the classic gray dogs. He has received many awards, including two awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, a New York Foundation for the Arts Honor and two Guggenheim Fellowships.