Dog treats: Wegman's artwork comes to SMoCA - East Valley Tribune: Get Out

Dog treats: Wegman's artwork comes to SMoCA

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Posted: Sunday, July 12, 2009 1:59 pm | Updated: 1:38 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

William Wegman may be most famous taking portraits of dogs, but that's not all he's good at.

The photographer known for his playful images of Weimaraner dogs with deadpan expressions is a bona fide artist, and some of his work will be on display beginning Saturday at the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art.

"Unexpected Wegman," as the exhibition is dubbed, will go beyond the famous Weimaraner portraits to show other art from Wegman's vast body of work, says Cassandra Coblentz, curator of the installation.

"If there's one thing people take away from it, I hope they learn that Wegman works in a variety of media, from photography and printmaking to video and even paintings. That same sort of conceptual playfulness you see in his portraits with the dogs is present in all of his work, and it's really fun and sort of quirky and thought-provoking."

Among the 45 or 50 pieces in the exhibition are lithographs, flip books, and screenings of compiled video works, like the odd 1975 short "Dog Duet," which featured Wegman's original Weimaraner, Man Ray, and another dog slowly peering at something just off camera. Wegman showed it on "The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson" in 1992.

Other works feature a dolphin, an anteater, a wild boar and themes of nature and sports.

"He's also really clever with the way he uses language and wordplay," says Coblentz. "One of my favorites is a drawing of a ship sinking, a man getting medical attention, an Old West wagon that's run over somebody, and a wire hanger with a bodybuilder inside it. There's just sort of something 'off' about it, and at the bottom it says 'Various Disasters'."

Coblentz was careful to toss dog lovers a few bones, too.

"There will be plenty of dogs for people to see," she says. "They may be different kinds of images than the ones we're all used to seeing, but I think people will be delighted by them."

The exhibition includes a lounge area with interactive educational activities, and two Thursday night events later this month will give patrons the opportunity to study the exhibition in more detail. (See "Two ways to get more out of Wegman's work," this page.)

Unexpected Wegman is the first museum exhibition in the Valley to focus exclusively on Wegman's work, although the artist is represented at Scottsdale's Lisa Sette Gallery.

Wegman's photos are in permanent collections at the Hammer Museum at UCLA, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Smithsonian American Art Museum. He lives and works in New York and Maine.

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