• Willy, "Untitled", 2003, mixed media from the American Rawhide Series. Photo credit: Bob Oppenheim.

Hanging by a Thread

Recent Work by Bob Oppenheim and Push and Pull (Mostly Push): The Photo Documents of Recent Installations by Willy

February 9 - March 5

Simmons College Trustman Art Gallery presents the fourth in our couples series, "Hanging by a Thread: Recent work by Bob Oppenheim," and "Push and Pull (Mostly Push): The photo documents of recent installations by Willy," Feb. 9 to March 5 at the Simmons College Trustman Art Gallery, fourth floor, Main College Building, 300 The Fenway.

There will be a reception Tuesday, Feb. 10 from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. The exhibit is free and open to the public.

With this exhibition the gallery extends its yearlong theme of artist partners by showcasing the truly unique relationship between the work of artist and Simmons Professor of Art Bob Oppenheim, and that of his dog, Willy, an elderly, self-taught West Highland terrier. Oppenheim, who is also director of the Trustman Art Gallery, will be showing new, mixed-media work from 2003, in which he combines painted canvas fragments, recycled fabric, graphite drawing, and thread. Sewing dominates as both a formal devise and a potent metaphor of loss and healing. Oppenheim uses stitching as a stand-in for the classical hand-drawn line. Awkward and homey, sewn layers form and connect puzzle-like shapes. The end result is a curious blend of refined modernist abstraction, intimate autobiography, and post-modern commentary on art and its potential to renew and to amuse.

Willy is an indomitable, obsessive assembler-- an installation artist with an arte-povera sense of materials. Though self-taught, he shares a surprising sense of process with many artists working today including Oppenheim, who explains that, when Willy works, it's a lot about play. Like his master, the dog-artist alters his materials in unexpected ways and violates traditional boundaries of art and design. His primary medium is rawhide, a material commonly provided to pets as a food substitute, a treat that helps them sublimate anxiety. But not all dogs are artists. Willy is unique. He skillfully sculpts his rawhide (along with other traditional dog-toys) with his teeth and then assembles and reassembles them into temporary installations, here documented in color photographs taken by Oppenheim. Willy's art can be understood both in relationship to Oppenheim's constructions, and more importantly, within an emerging tradition of animal art, including that of painting elephants, trained chimpanzees, and bower birds whose architectural embellishments and decorative instincts enhance their mating prospects.

This exhibition is guest curated by Joyce Cohen, critic and Simmons professor of art.

Exhibit hours are from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. The gallery is wheelchair accessible. For more information, contact Christine Kromer at 617-521-2268.