Those endless Facebook posts of cute dogs and cats. Millions of hits for YouTube’s The Daily 'Aww' channel featuring headlines like “Puppy refuses to use stairs, plus other cute animals doing cute things.” You can give some of the credit if you like this type of stuff -- or some of the blame if you don’t -- to conceptual artist William Wegman.
The San Jose Museum of Art has just opened a new show of Wegman’s work, “Artists Including Me: William Wegman” featuring a range of photos, drawings, paintings and videos from across the artist's career, including some loving parodies of art masterpieces.
Wegman started as a conceptual artist -- but one with a light touch, characterized by the use of visual and verbal puns in his drawings and photos. Then, while living in San Pedro and teaching at Cal State Long Beach in the early 1970's, he began to photograph and make videos of his dog, a Weimeraner named Man Ray. As a model, Man Ray seemed both mournful and thoughtful, yet as nimble a comic actor as Buster Keaton.
Wegman’s best known work since then has chronicled the adventures of Man Ray, Fay Wray, and their Weimeraner- successors in studio and natural settings that are formally gorgeous, but irresistibly ridiculous.
These days Wegman lives in Rangely, Maine, and spends a lot of time riding a mountain bike to exercise his current models Topper and Flo.