9. June 2011 16:08
On a hot Friday evening, a day when the rain finally ceased, I ventured to River North to explore this neighborhood of galleries. What I found was an enthused crowd of artists, collectors and art admirers (and some great shows!) One of my last stops before retiring for the night was the Carl Hammer Gallery.
Entering the gallery I was greeted by big, bright and humorous carnival banners with accompanying photos of William Wegman’s weimaraners. This exhibit includes a series of photos featuring his famous dogs in front of large vintage carnival announcements and sideshow banners painted by Fred Johnson and Snap Wyatt. As usual, the dogs have blank expressions, some with hints of annoyance. Seeing these dogs against the loud and exhibitionist posters creates a perfect tension and humor between the common dog and loud human pomp.
Wegman’s exploration of the canine form began when he got his first dog - a weimaraner named Man Ray. Man Ray became the subject of a series of humorous Polaroid photos where he was placed in shoes, oven mitts and kitchens. One of the more famous sets is where Man Ray is placed in backward-facing boots, looking away from the camera. Five years after the death of Man Ray, Wegman continued his series with a new weimaraner named Fay Ray, and the eventual addition of her puppies.
A fond memory I have of his work is as a young child growing up watching Sesame Street in the mornings. I would always giddily wait to see these funny dogs doing human things, and would wonder how those dogs had the ability to sprout human hands.
Viewing his work as an adult still brings back all those memories of watching his humorous films of dogs in dresses and overalls.
William Wegman: Color Polaroids and
Snap Wyatt & Fred Johnson: Vintage Sideshow Banners
Thru Aug 26 at the Carl Hammer Gallery
740 N. Wells St. Chicago Il 60654