Thursday, February 8, 2018

William Wegman at the Met

In “Before/On/After: William Wegman and California Conceptualism,” on view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, William Wegman’s work reminds us that a significant faction of conceptual art has its roots in humorous pursuits. Wegman’s work is funny: it acts quickly and feels distinctly Californian and is in line with someone like John Baldessari, who was included in the show. During the video - Wegman’s donation of 174 of his short videos prompted the show - there was audible laughter from viewers. The humor is dry but rewarding and Wegman seems earnest in his pursuit of eliciting joy. In one video, Wegman, in a near deadpan, creates a narrative between a man and woman where the copyright information of a Merriam-Webster Dictionary acts as points of reference for these characters’ lives, resulting in an ridiculous application of copyright law. The exhibition also featured several playful drawings made by Wegman. “Distorted Vase,” is a twist on “Rubin’s vase,” an illusion where two silhouetted profiles facing one another make a vase in their negative space. The drawing has both profiles but they have been shifted up and down, distorting the illusion. The effect is goofy and succinct: the components of the illusion are present but the shift destroys the negative and the illusion is broken.


  1. I agree that you mentioned about the cleverness and humor in his works. I think there are not many artists like Wegman, would be loved by the public and the critics simultaneously. To most artists, art function as a tool for expressing anxiety, a channel of disillusionment, a platform for political defamation, whereas Wegman was less seriously fascinate the audience with gentlemanly intelligence and subversive humor, trying to illustrate the uncanniness of real life. You have mentioned a little bit of that there was" audible laughter from viewers" in his videos, and I was expecting that you could examine it further, like, laughter would consequently channel to the self-awareness of the audience himself.

  2. Hank hits on what was most successful in Before/On/After William Wegman and California Conceptualism, the centrally placed film looped with humor driven content. A visitor to this exhibition cannot view the entire show without passing by the projected film, and they wouldn't be able to ignore what's happening on screen. Even though Wegman's works were produced as an exploration of the camera, the subject matter is undeniably funny and ultimately captivating. The plays on imagery and phrases throughout the exhibition make the viewer decipher meaning as if doing a word puzzle while having breakfast.