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Friday, 03 August 2012


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Dogs sure put up with a lot from us.

although it is pretty silly, I'm thinking maybe you didn't get enough sleep last night =) I'm sure some folks get a kick out of those pics, just like I get a kick out of artful poetry like,
"I picture them in sensible shoes and bow ties, tittering mirthlessly."

One must assume that it is intended to look like a snapshot, to make what is clearly not ordinary look utterly mundane, to force the double take. Which it does. Must have been very hard work.

But I do wonder if a lot of art critics can't find anything funny unless they can write a treatise about it first. As a joke it's thin and as a concept it's trivial and has been done to death.

Basing conceptual art on an incredibly obvious joke? Seems a bit pointless I agree.

I don't think too many 'serious museum curators and critics' consider Wegman very important, and to the extent they do, it's mostly because he's done other things, aside from the dog pictures, which are mildly interesting.

But Mike, Wegman is a "pioneer video artist, conceptualist, photographer, painter and writer, [who] moves fluidly among various media."

Just like a sailboat.

No comment from here about Wegman's work. But it's clear that the impact of such an image is greatly diminished in the digital era.

Stop watching the Olympics every night, Mike.

Oh my gawd, that is awful! Mike, I like your taste much better...

It's the photographic equivalent of "Dogs Playing Poker." The fun and the challenge are in convincing art buyers that your image is art precisely because its kitschyness is so intentional.

DISCLAIMER: We love dogs,and when I met my wife in 1989, I think she had a Wegman calendar with 12 months of dog poses.
However, where were the curators in the 1950s when I was photographing Princess wering my pajamas?

My wife buys his calendar every year. As they said in movie Shakespeare in Love, "Everybody loves the bit with the dog."

If you can sell your work as Conceptual, then (contrary to Ctein's thesis) people DO care how hard you work. The hard work IS the art. I don't buy conceptual art, particularly, but the political variations of it can be pretty effective (e.g. "We spent 100 days picking up garbage on the gulf shore of Florida and made this model oil rig out of it" sorts of things).

Wegman doesn't even try to be political, he's just pandering at this point. He's probably even sicker of this schtick than we are. Can you *imagine* having to get up every morning and think up a new picture of those.. danged.. dogs?

You must be a cat person... ;)

With so many others out there committing outright visual felonies, I can't get too excited either way by Mr. Wegman. Although I am amazed he's been able to juice this canine one trick pony as long as he has- and I still much prefer it to that other, never ending, one person, portrait horror show that originated in the same time period.

His work would make a great series of greeting cards.

Re humor, I think you're right as evidenced by this quote from the writeup on 20x200:
"In Vacationland, two dogs, Batty and Crooky, man (pun intended) a small sloop."

I admit that I'm not too comfortable with this kind of art photography, and don't have much exposure to it, but I do find Julie Blackmon's photographs much more interesting.

He's not a real artist until he can do this with cats, but on the other hand, he does have a nice grocery store chain.

The sails are not trimmed correctly.

Silly dogs, they will never win the America's Cup that way.

p.s. "...to me he's the king of the naked kings."

He's not even in the king's court any more, Mike. Whatever you might think of Wegman's work you must at least give him credit for knowing how to use a camera and mastery of his photographic processes.

That would be exceptional for many of today's hot crop of "conceptual" photographic artists, many of whom know jack-sh!t about photography. Really.

It took me a while, but I finally got to the point where I could concede that some of Gregory Crewdson's giant cinematic confections qualify as "art with a capital A". They can be witty and thoughtful, and there's an obvious devotion to craft in the meticulous staging and lighting of his complex scenes. Jeff Wall's similarly artificial constructs fall into the same category (at least in my head), though I don't find them as appealing somehow.
But I totally agree with Mike on this one. The conceit of photographing a somber-looking dog in clothing with a large format camera is mildly amusing. Once. And I guess no one has the right to say what is and is not art. But somehow this doesn't seem to rise to that level, no matter how charitably I try to look at it.

Hey, Jimmy!

So, you're saying you shot a dog in your pajamas?

"Yeah, how it got in my pajamas I'll never know!"

pax / Ctein

(With a tip'o'the old cigar and a waggle of the eyebrows...)

I read a few months ago an article about how the very rich stay very rich by investing a third of their wealth in each of land, gold, and art. So for the super-wealthy who turn the planet, that art has to be able to maintain its value. So if the courtiers consistently call it art and its supply is limited investment money will come, no matter the subject.

It's all art now though isn't it? Just go visit the Flickrverse where every snapper talks about "my art" even if their "personal vision" just happens to be wherever they were standing. So now everyone's an artist. Except:

If everyone's an artist, nobody is.*

*You are not special. If you haven't seen it, well worth 12 minutes of your time:

I always sort of liked them, and found them amusing, and even artful -- especially the early ones, when he'd just started working with the dogs. But, after a while, the charm diminishes. In some ways, he reminds me of Hendrik Kerstens.


Mike - Why are you picking on the guy?

Re: Florida oil rigs. Everywhere I go on the net I find people (americans?) quick to demonise BP and use it as an example of corporate greed. I realise the oil spill was contemporary, in the back yard, and a political opportunity not wasted by the POTUS.

However, any chance instead that we could reference the Bhopal Disaster once in a while. It's a much better example of shameful corporate behaviour in every way and one of which we should be reminded:

It's a long read, but if you make it to the end you'll be horrified.

For those that don't get concptual art photography perhaps invest in the third DVD of the (French) Contacts series. It's devoted to conceptual artists. Perhaps from Netflix. Or even floating around on the 'net.

e.g. http://www.amazon.com/Contacts-Vol-3-Conceptual-Photography/dp/B000AYEL92

Conceptual photography is quite a broad church including people I know Mike likes: John Baldessari, Bernd & Hilla Becher, Christian Boltanski, Alain Fleischer, John Hilliard, Roni Horn, Martin Parr, Georges Rousse, Thomas Struth, Wolfgang Tillmans. Not as popular as Mr. Wegman (though Parr comes closest at least in UK ... he even one a couple of TV shows).

It ranges from the humorless (Bernd and Hilla Becher - heavy industry typologies) to the humorful (Martin Parr). I like both of them.

Not sure about Mr. Wegman though but as others point out it is supposed to look like a snapshot but it's a 20x24 Polaroid snapshot. And there's the exclaimation point too so there is some irony to chuckle over.

At 20x200 it's an "archival pigment print" hich rather looses the impact of the original (and it's a bit cheaper!) so it's more like a single frame calendar than contemprary art.

I love dogs. I have two of my own. They deserve, (and they get) my Respect for who they are and for what they do.

Because (IMHO) Mr. Wegman demeans dogs with his photography, I have never been a fan of his work...

...But this picture is just plain "tacky".



I photograph dogs for a (small) living, I love dogs and dog photos, but I have never understood the fascination for the work of W. Wegman. I actively dislike his work. But then I dislike all posed with props dog photography. Totally goes over my head I guess. So I am in agreement.

To say nothing of Cindy Sherman...

I would just never have the energy for this sort of thing.

You would likely not enjoy the challenge of a commercial product shoot either. In any case, my dog is too smart to put up with this kind foolishness.

so right, Mike. ugh. it's crap like this that makes it so difficult for classic photographers (I put myself in this camp) to make a dent in the art world.

"I picture them in sensible shoes and bow ties, tittering mirthlessly."

Now THAT'S funny!

I read between the lines in the linked page and can't help but feel that your views on the alleged humour are possibly shared by the curators of the page. W

"... long way to go for precious little." I agree totally. Although my degree is in fine art the "Art World" and I have never been fellow travelers. Most of what gets raves by the gallery crowd seems shallow and silly to me. That photo is not an exception.

I think some of his dog pics are funny. I can understand how you feel; I never understood the attraction you have to most of the street photography shots you post. I find the majority of them boring and ordinary.

Different strokes for different folks 4-sure!

The dogs in a boat rings a bell at my home. Ten years ago I became a father of twins (boy and girl), they have become my favorite subjects. No one loves them like I do, except their mother of course.


Him and Jeff Koons

Mike, I opened the link expecting (from your intro) something pretty dull, and got the giggles from it. And I don't own a dog.

The composition is so...matter of fact. Understated.

Yes, it's just a silly sight gag. But I can imagine many people (sailer-types, for example) enjoying hanging this on their wall. Invokes the "How did he do that?" conversation.

Hi MIke,
There was recently a video in the times on him and his work at his house in Maine. Pretty good life hanging out with dogs in the countryside. No comment on his work from me. Cheers, S

I think this blogger best sums up my feeling about Wegman:


SO, SO with you on this....

I imagine the cat lovers are a bit more critical of his work. Personally, as a parent, it reminds me of the Sesame Street skits with the dressed up dogs (same type of dogs too, and yes, there was one where the dogs were in boats).
I think we'll know when he's "jumped the shark" when the dogs show up wearing gas masks.

Wegman is the K-Mart Cindy Sherman.

"I think we'll know when he's 'jumped the shark' when the dogs show up wearing gas masks."

I couldn't find it online, but I'm pretty sure that's been done.


Paul Richardson beat me to the punch, besides Wegman I never could get the bid deal about Cindy Sherman.

Sorry but Wegman is BETTER than Cindy Sherman because at least he's got dogs in the photo...

Out here in SFO right now, and there's some sort of show for Sherman going on, and there's stuff plastered up all over, and even the young AD's I meet are saying: "...just don't get how someone made a living doing that, today that's internet disposable...".


I'm surprised that no one has brought up Anne Geddes yet.

The website you linked to said it all under the photograph. "Buy this Art". Oh, they have to tell us that that's what it is.

The surprising thing about this, for me, is that Wegman is selling his photos at 20x200, period. While I admire what they are trying to do in keeping art prices affordable, I thought Wegman generally flies in rarified air ... is this a sign that his star is on the wane?

'"I think we'll know when he's 'jumped the shark' when the dogs show up wearing gas masks."

I couldn't find it online, but I'm pretty sure that's been done.'

I think it's been done, too, but a) if it comes to that, I think we're more likely to see a dog in a leather jacket on water skis literally jumping a shark and b) can a parodist jump the shark?

Well, Mike, your post (and the photo you linked to) actually forced me to think about why I can't, much as I wish I could, just dismiss Wegman as a lightweight joker.

While his work isn't to my taste, Wegman strikes me as conscious and conscientious, not only in terms of craft, which he has clearly mastered, and the (in)famous content, but also about the aesthetic and social aspects of art photography. I suspect he has his tongue firmly in cheek, and laughs during his frequent trips to the bank.

If he were shooting people with the same mastery and ambition he applies to dogs, we'd be celebrating Wegman as a portraitist (and he'd be making less $$ perhaps), but that mastery and effort I think is a crucial part of the gag--a deeper gag than just dressing and posing dogs. They're stupid, yes, but some of the portraits are just so...stunning. Stupid and stunningly good.

And some of his images provoke me to think--at length--about photographs and art and portraiture and aesthetics and iconography. Not because they're bad, but because they're so good--technically, formally, aesthetically, conceptually (and I'm not talking about the dogs)--which makes it all the more absurd, which in turn is a large part of the point (for me). Mere kitsch doesn't do that.

So yes, his work is cutesy and kitschy, AND conceptual and at least somewhat deep (the best of it, anyway). Still, I can't help wondering if the point could have been better made with a single photograph.

"I'm surprised that no one has brought up Anne Geddes yet."

Jeff did. Or rather Jeff's link did.


"is this a sign that his star is on the wane?"

Funny, I took it to be the opposite, that he's willing to make his work available to a more democratized audience and confident enough to mix it up at the affordable end of the scale.

No clue which of reaction right, however. If either of us are.


>even the young AD's I meet are saying: "...just don't get how someone made a living doing that, today that's internet disposable...".

Uhh...maybe because when she was doing her most vital work there was no public Internet and those ADs had even been thought of yet?

What a dumb remark. Spend 30 minutes looking at landscapes on 500px and I suppose you could say the same thing about Ansel Adams.

Go see the Sherman show and then tell me Wegman's better.

There is conceptual and there is staged conceptual....staged conceptual stinks to me or at least smells funny in a bad way. Few exceptions. Conceptual non staged however like the Bechers did and Tata Ronkholz, Boris Becker and Thomas Struth for instance do or mr. Frank Breuer does. Well that is quite a different ballpark....that is work, and my god you can see how much work it was, just by looking at the picures....

Greets, Ed.

Good for you for just laying out. Obviously some people think it's adorable or interesting or whatever. I look at it and say: so what. On a bad day it's puke-worthy. Or at least abusive of the dogs.

Imagine how "tired" Mr. Wegman feels.

WOW - I guess NO ONE in this post saw his retrospective Funney/Strange that circulated in the USA in 2006. Judging Wegman by his dog photos is like judging a pair of shoes by their laces. - The dog images are more visible because that is what the public keeps demanding - not the art-loving community, but the dog-loving community. He definitely has a lot of fun with his dogs - but he is a very funney/strange conceptual artist - and if he had never made the dog photos, he would be known for his witty and twisted work: drawings, videos, etc....

I wish someone would buy my photos of my dog.
I am envious of the guy AND his sense of humor.
There has to be about a million worthier targets of your distain.
Mike- The Olympics are taking up too much of your beauty sleep time and influencing your grumpy glands.
BTW: I drooled all over someone's NEX 7 at a wedding this weekend. That was embarrassing.

"he is a very funney/strange conceptual artist - and if he had never made the dog photos, he would be known for his witty and twisted work: drawings, videos, etc..."

Thank you Ms. Davis. If one had ever attended a lecture by Wegman, they would also know that the dog photos are what pay the bills while he does other things. Most folks who do not like him are (IMHO) just jealous of his success.

Oh, and he genuinely loves the dogs ...

So, I take it we will not be seeing you at this exhibition? http://www.bowdoin.edu/art-museum/exhibitions/2012/wegman.shtml

I'd definitely go see it if I were nearby. Always willing to get input, always willing to see originals.


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