Gone To the Dogs
The artist and his dog.
For Lovers Only
Paris:- Tuesday, 1. July:- The sky looks like blue-gray steel wool but I do not take an umbrella. I quit carrying umbrellas around sometime in the '90s, because that is all that I did with them. With a sky like today's no umbrella would help anyway. Either it is going to cave in or it will move elsewhere before it does.
I have planned to take some photos on the way to this afternoon's exhibition opening but the sky is kind of dim. I see nothing Metropole-worthy in the Rue de la Gaîté anyway so when I get to Edgar Quinet I take the métro in the direction of Trocadéro, and change there to the line nine to ride the one stop to Iéna.
Passing the city's Museum of Modern Art I see a gathering on its entry steps. It must be for a show opening I haven't been invited to. I take the shortcut between the two wings of the Palais de Tokyo, passing a terrace set up for café service. The lower part of the museum area looks derelict and abandoned, and the sky doesn't make it cheerier.
At first I'm not sure which way to go on the Avenue de New York, but I see that Alma is too close, so the Fondation Mona Bismarck must be the other way, back towards Trocadéro, just past the Debilly footbridge.One-half of the drink on offer, not including orange juice.
From a block off I can see a lot of men in black around the entrance. Closer, I see that they are a combination of security gorillas and car-parkers. There's more than a half-dozen of them. This, I have never seen at an exhibition opening before.
Inside, I sign the usual visitors' book and get the press packet, which I stuff into my bag without looking at it. At the top of the entry stairs I see that there are a number of other 'first-nighters.' Some of them look underfed, as if, what we have here, is a show of fashionable but unwearable clothing.
A normal-looking lady asks me if she can show me around. Even after I find out she is from Savannah, we keep talking in French. Her's is better than mine - but most everybody's is.
'Pour l'Amour des Chiens' is a dog show. Some of the artistic items are completely doggy, and some don't seem to be in the right show. For example, a big tub full of dog biscuits is completely doggy, but other things - like dog collars - might be worn by - anybody, these days.
There is one room that has a bed in it. In German it would be called a 'himmelbette,' because it has gauze canopy hanging down from the, er, 'himmel.'
The are little clumps of grass growing out of the bed, and some more are growing out of its pillow. In case you don't entirely get it, some more grows out of a handy carpet beside the bed. I am not sure this would be 'himmlisch,' or celestial exactly.
The lady from Savannah has left me inexplicitly alone with this. Since it is my weekend today, I am not going to think hard about it. Instead I pass through a sort of lobby and turn left, following the scent of food and drink.In case you think these dogs are the chorus, the arrow points to the machine playing the 'Chúur des chiens' by Bob Weis.
There are some other young men, also dressed in black, who are circulating with trays of drinks. I help myself to an orange juice. Then I find myself talking to Robert Weis, from Palm Springs, California. It does occur to me to ask what the 'R' stands for, but not while we are talking.
He tells me about the 'Chúur de Chiens' that he composed, especially for this show. He recorded three Jack Russell terriers and one Chihuahua named Pepper, ran their voices through a sampler, and produced a three-minute chorus that plays every ten minutes.
Some of the first-nighter dogs present, he adds, have been quite amused by this. Otherwise, he is either working on or has completed an opus modelled after the helicoidal structure of DNS. I guess it is the type of idea that one could have after living for a long time on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, and then switching to Palm Springs.
From this room there is an exit to the garden. On either side of the porch there are long bars set up, and in the garden there is a big round table with tiers of delicate 'amuse-gueules' - canapés - set up under a tent - which is good, because while I've been inside it has been raining.
Before I can get to these carburents I see Matthew Rose, who has given me the invitation. I think he handed out 150 to his closest friends, so they could be here to see his renditions of dogs. He is talking to an Italian monsieur, who has a big umbrella.Have you ever wondered what a lot of kilos of dog biscuits looks like?
If it wasn't my weekend, I'd be keeping notes. Or maybe it is because I am hungry, and take some 'amuse-gueules' as they are passed around on trays, and don't feel like writing with sticky fingers. But I do remember that Matt's acquaintance is here because he likes dogs. 'Man's,' as they say, 'closest friend.'
After a while I do get to the tiered table under the tent, and I have one of nearly everything. Whatever they are, they are pretty good. If you go to a Ville de Paris museum or gallery opening, there isn't even any free water anymore.
Full enough to keep going for another ten minutes, I make my way back, waving off offers of Champagne or orange juice, and bump into Laurel Avery with a French monsieur whose name I immediately forget on account of it being my weekend. He is amused by the dogs. This is a good sign, because Parisians have seen everything else.
Back inside, there is an ultra-thin young lady photographer with a very large 35mm camera - maybe digital, Nikon seems to think the larger they are the more professional they look - and I try to synchro my camera to her camera's blitz-light. Even with a count-down it doesn't work.
In a small passage between the lobby and the room with the grass growing out of everything, I find Matt and his representation of a dog. His other two artworks are 'not found' in this show, and he's a bit peeved about it - since he got 150 close friends to come and see them.
Anyhow, it is enough that he is here on behalf of the other Daguerréotypistas who aren't with us today, and despite there being no light in this little passage, Matt gets pictorially recorded - along with some other first-nighters passing through. Later I see that most of these photos have a wonderful black texture, without actually having any images.
So there are dog fashions - 'Chiengora Sweaters' - coats, opera gloves, the 'Ashes of Fluffy,' and the fashion designer, as well as Little Red Riding Hood - which is a big installation, improbably looking like a sheep dog pretending to be a wolf, on a bed, set on an Italian tile floor, with an alpine background - with a red Little Red Riding Hood, little, dog - on the improbable tiles.I didn't know it at the time, but I would run into more ladies during the week with huge cameras and bigger flashes.
But there are other discords. One is a big photo of an installation, titled, 'Popcorn en Pluie,' by Sandy Skoglund. If it wasn't a dog show, I think I would have preferred seeing 'Vengeance du Poisson Rouge.' In France, all goldfish want revenge for being called 'rouge.'
If the show has a star it is probably William Wegman, whose photo 'Show of Shadow' illustrates the invitation and the press packet, and is also on view in the gallery.
Wegman worked with his dog 'Man Ray' for 12 years in Long Beach, before the two moved to New York in 1972. 'Fay Ray' took over in 1986, and was followed by offspring and offspring of offspring - into drawings, paintings, videos and large-format Polaroid photos.
Since it has now become the evening of my solo-day weekend, and I have had two glasses of orange juice and about eight strange but tasty canapés, and have taken many photos I am sure will not be well-enough lit to show here, and if I hurry I can catch the last half of the TV-news, it is time to buzz off.
On the way out I salute all the door-watchers and car-parkers. Unused to being saluted, they do not return them. I hike up to Trocadéro, but there is too much light for a dramatic shot of the Tour Eiffel and it's too early to catch the twinkle lights, so I métro on home to Montparnasse with dogs on the brain.
The exhibition has been mounted by theSavannah College of Art and Design, which has chosen Paris as a good location to celebrate the loyalty, esthetics and charms 'inherent' in dogs. In 2002, the college took over the Ecole des Arts de Lacoste, founded by Bernard Pfriem in southern France. It is now called the Savannah College of Art and Design at Lacoste.
See one of Matt's dogs at the exhibition 'Pour l'Amour des Chiens,' along with other artists and their important paintings, photographs, knitting, bijoux, sculptures and installations, mainly of, or for, dogs. Continuing until Saturday, 30. August. No entry charge. Open Tuesday to Saturday from 10:30 to 18:15. At the Fondation Mona Bismarck, 34. Avenue de New York, Paris 16. Métro: Iéna or Alma-Marceau. InfoTel.: 01 47 23 38 38.
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