At the Polygon Gallery until September 1
In the past couple of decades, we’ve had to recognize the remarkable intelligence of an increasingly large number of animals. That is, animals other than ourselves, from elephants and dolphins to ravens, octopi, squirrels, and bees.
Still, the creature to which we continue to feel the most bonded, the creature that hooked up with us more than 20,000 years ago, is the dog. Part of the dog’s appeal—one that somehow extends to photographs of it—is the loyalty and adoration it bestows, unasked, upon us. And part of it is the way we see ourselves reflected back in its actions and expressions, a dynamic that is as much adaptation as it is anthropomorphism.
Dog Days at the Polygon Gallery may be the most engaging photographic exhibition on view this summer. Curated by photographer and long-time gallery manager Diane Evans, the show trots, tail wagging, from the 19th century to the 21st, from anonymous portraits of family pets, police hounds, hapless mutts, and best-in-show winners to the focused works of acclaimed photographers, past and present.
These include Eadweard Muybridge’s sequential images of a retriever being fed, on the move, by a naked woman; Jacques Henri Lartigue’s unnerving shot of a man tossing a terrier across a stream in the Bois de Boulogne; and Elliott Erwitt’s photo of a long-legged white pooch perched on the crossed arms of a French shopkeeper. This alert critter, along with a Chihuahua dwarfed by its human and Great Dane companions, reminds us of the special canine chapter in Erwitt’s acclaimed career.
Contemporary local photographers are well represented. Look for Marian Penner Bancroft’s close-up colour image of an antique poodle figurine with a miniature fruit basket dangling from a hook in its terracotta chin. (This image is also on view in Penner Bancroft’s solo show at the Republic Gallery.)
See, too, Nina Raginsky’s hand-tinted photo of a broadly smiling hazelnut vendor and his very reserved-looking Weimaraner; Art Perry’s black-and-white photo of Lou Reed lying on the floor with his little terrier Lolabelle in his arms; and Geoffrey Wallang’s contemporary tintype portraits of a series of cherished dogs—and one cat.
Hatt’s amusing video Screen Tests (After Warhol), made in collaboration with Garry-Lewis James Osterberg, features a series of googly-eyed Chihuahuas, looking at the camera with a mix of perplexity and boredom. Their expressions vary only slightly, all of them suggesting the eternal existential question of man and dog alike: “What the hell am I doing here?”