An exhibition simply titled “The Dog Show” is a rare example of the wide diversity of contemporary art and the unique approaches to subject and craft on view. The show is presented by the Tory Folliard Gallery in Milwaukee, WI, the longtime purveyor of contemporary art of the Midwest. The exhibition (viewable online) features painting, drawing, photography and sculpture celebrating the representation of dogs in present-day art. The guest curator, painter Fred Stonehouse, was interested in the variety of ways that artists push beyond the pedestrian conceptions of a “pet portrait” into a terrain where images of dogs become thoroughly enmeshed with a creative vision or studio practice.
“Certainly, many artists have vividly captured images of beloved pets over the years, but it is when dogs have entered the imaginative universe of an artist and become integral characters in their narrative, attained the status of mythic surrogate, or risen to the level of formal muse, that they play their most compelling role. It is difficult to imagine a world without dogs or an art-world where dogs don’t figure prominently, but I am confident that dogs will be with us to the end both in our art and at our sides,” Stonehouse explained.
The breadth of imagery is impressive and engaging. The paintings by Stonehouse are included, the works are mesmerizing, otherworldly depictions of canine visages. His are among several works that hint at mystery and the mythological meaning of our canine companions. Sculptures by Chris Berti and Mark Chatterley suggest totems from another time. They are exquisite in their iconic forms (Berti) and bubbling texture (Chatterley). Robin Whiteman’s delicate porcelain sculptures carry with them a mysterious air of melancholy and longing. But before you think that the galleries are full of dark, looming objets de canine—turn a corner to behold brightly painted, expressionist visions of grinning dogs, walking dogs, and 3-dimensional canines simply being dogs. There are delightful landscapes filled with dogs by Robert Cocke, as well as sophisticated compositions by Mark Mulhern and Mary Jones. And oh, so many wonderful dog portraits.
The artwork assembled is as varied and individual as its subject matter. It is refreshing to see such a diverse and stimulating sampling of contemporary art centered on such a common subject matter. I can’t wait to see what’s in next year’s Dog Show II …
The Dog Show is currently on view at the Tory Folliard Gallery in Milwaukee, WI, through September 5, 2020. The artwork can also be viewed online at toryfolliard.com