Please Stand By
Drawings for a Better Tomorrow and a Worse Yesterday
March 8-April 22, 2017
Artist’s talk March 8, 4 p.m. at the Landis Cinema.
William Wegman: Please Stand By: Drawings for a Better Tomorrow and a Worse Yesterday curated by Julia Brennan ’17 and Lola Wegman ’19 brings together a selection of Wegman’s videos from the 70s and a collection of works on paper–drawings, collages, and altered photographs–from the 1970s through the 1990s which reveal the humor and strange logic which inform so much of his work.
Flipping through stacks of drawings, we found ourselves stifling laughter just as much as hiding our total confusion at the work in front of us—William Wegman’s humor is such that you either get it or you don’t. But the beauty of Wegman’s drawings is that it does not matter if the viewer understands the punchline. They were drawn for the sole purpose of coming into being, regardless of whether they would be understood. They are snapshots, brief flashes of ideas, thoughts traversed over paper almost immediately. This snapshot quality is exactly what is captured in Wegman’s videos as well. The videos, like Wegman’s drawings, are brief yet playful sketches created to express singular ideas.
Please Stand By: Drawings for a Better Tomorrow and a Worse Yesterday highlights the creativity of William Wegman in the rapidly expanding video art scene of the late 20th century as well as the subtle and clever humor on display in both his videos and his drawings. The works shown are ones that specifically stand out as characteristic of Wegman’s spontaneous nature and droll outlook on life, and pose a strong reminder that both drawings and videos—mediums that have been historically considered to be reflective of reality—are sometimes best viewed through a witty and informal eye.
Julia Brennan ’17
Lola Wegman ’19
William Wegman lived and worked in Los Angeles in the early 70s, a pioneer in the developing medium of video art and a key figure, along with such artists as John Baldessari, Ed Ruscha and Al Ruppersberg, in what came to be known as West Coast Conceptual art. His dog at the time, a Weimaraner named Man Ray, insisted on being a part of whatever it was Wegman was working on at the studio and thus began a collaboration with his dogs which has continued to this day. In 2006 Roberta Smith, in a New York Times review of his retrospective at the Brooklyn Museum wrote “Mr. Wegman is one of the most important artists to emerge from the heady experiments of the 1970s.”
Wegman began producing short, performance-oriented videotapes in the early 1970s which are considered classics. Using sight gags, minimalist performance and his own special dead pan humor Wegman’s video work reveals the absurd inspiration to be found in everything from art to advertising. Describing the process behind his tapes, Wegman says, “I present a situation and develop some kind of explanation around it. By the time the story is over you get to know why that particular prop or mannerism was displayed.”
In his drawings [he] can deal with really far-fetched content, subjects that are awkward for photo or video recording,” he has said. “Drawing opened up a realm of possibilities.”
William Wegman was born December 2, 1943 in Holyoke, Massachusetts. He received a BFA in painting from the Massachusetts College of Art in Boston in 1965 and an MFA from the University of Illinois Champagne-Urbana in 1967. Wegman’s photographs, videotapes, paintings, and drawings have been exhibited in museums and galleries internationally. The exhibition William Wegman: Photographs, Paintings, Drawings and Video toured throughout Europe including the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; the Kunstmuseum, Lucerne; the Frankfurter Kunstverein; the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris and the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. Recent exhibitions have included William Wegman: Funney/Strange which toured museums in the US and touring retrospectives in Europe, Scandinavia, Japan, and Korea. Wegman is the author of numerous books for adults, over a dozen books for children. Recent publications include William Wegman: Paintings (Abrams) and the upcoming William Wegman: Being Human which will be published by Thames and Hudson in fall 2017.