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William Wegman: Reading Two Books

William Wegman (American, b. 1943). Reading Two Books, 1971. Gelatin silver print. Collection of Robert and Gayle Greenhill, © William Wegman

William Wegman: Funney/Strange

March 10–May 28, 2006

The Brooklyn Museum is the opening venue for William Wegman: Funney/Strange, a retrospective that explores forty years of Wegman’s art in all media. Included are more than 200 works, among them the signature 20 x 24 Polaroids, as well as early black-and-white altered photographs, paintings, drawings, collages, artist books, videos, and film. In all of Wegman’s work the light humor of “funny” mediates the darker human comedy of “strange.” His career, as the exhibition and the catalogue attest, has never been static or predictable; it is woven of enduring threads of interests and explorations that engaged him early and compel him still.

Coming of age in the 1960s, Wegman embraced conceptual art and video. He continues to be a video artist and conceptual thinker at the same time that he is an adventurous painter, prolific writer, and a masterly photographer who is able to navigate between art that amuses and surprises and art that challenges and transforms. While teaching at California State College in Long Beach in the early 1970s, Wegman developed what was to be his mature artistic voice expressed in his signature media of photography, video, and text. It was also in California that he acquired Man Ray, his canine muse, and began to include the dog in both photographs and video. By the fall of 1972, Wegman moved to New York, where he has remained ever since.

Beloved by the general public and held in critical esteem within the international art world, Wegman fascinates both audiences for much the same reasons: his smart, gently subversive humor that destabilizes the familiar to reveal life’s essential oddity. Throughout his career, he has moved seamlessly among various media, from conceptual works to commissioned magazine images, from video work to television segments made for Sesame Street and Saturday Night Live, from artist books to children’s books, from photographic “landscapes” employing his dogs to his most recent series of collage paintings that incorporate scenic postcards with drawing in addition to paint. This exhibition brings together well-known Wegman images with rarely exhibited material and surprising new work to reveal the full range and savvy voice of this remarkable artist.

The exhibition has been organized by the Addison Gallery of American Art and curated by independent curator Trevor Fairbrother. The extensive catalogue is written by scholar and critic Joan Simon. After its premier at Brooklyn, William Wegman: Funney/Strange will travel to the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington D.C., the Norton Museum of Art, Palm Beach; and will end its tour at the Addison Gallery. The coordinating curator for the Brooklyn presentation of Funney/Strange is Marilyn Kushner, Chair of the Department of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs.

William Wegman: Funney/Strange is sponsored at the Brooklyn Museum by

Additional support is provided by the Brooklyn Museum’s Martha A. and Robert S. Rubin Exhibition Fund. Generous support for this exhibition and publication is provided by The Henry Luce Foundation.

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