Act 1/Scene 21


Foster Dogs Gallery, Battersea Dogs & Cats Home, 4 Battersea Park Road, London SW8 4AA

25 August – 30 September 2012
Private View: 26 August 2012 (National Dog Day)

Gallery entrance: £3
Screenings: £5
Dogs go free
All proceeds go to Battersea Dogs & Cats Home

‘I would have immolated myself as a suttee. For no human would I ever have done such a thing.’
J.R. Ackerley, author of My Dog Tulip, on his German Shepherd Queenie

‘Dog kindness is the thing a dog has which keeps it from betting on people.’
Adam Phillips

Origins of Canis familiaris, or the domestic dog, dates back as far as 500,000 years. The domestic dog’s origins are ambiguous: pioneer of evolutionary biology Charles Darwin expressed despair over ever understanding these origins with certainty. Dogs have the longest history of human domestication in the animal kingdom. Today, the global dog population is only second in number to humans. In the last 150 years we have witnessed a more general shift from the working dog, to the dog as pet. Dog Kindness is the biggest celebration to date of the dog in art and material culture.

Along the passage adjoining the main gallery the audience meets with Icelandic artist Dieter Roth’s Self-portrait as a Pile of Dog Dirt (1973). Coupled with Roth, on loan from the Kennel Club, is Sir Edwin Henry Landseer’s painting A Distinguished Member of the Humane Society (1838). At the foot of the painting is a taxidermied mature landseer – the breed of dog depicted in Landseer’s painting, subsequently named after him.

Two bodies of work share the main gallery space. For his first show in the UK, Sam the painting dog – a bloodhound sheepdog cross from Maryland, USA – will show his series Substance Dualist Abstractions I-X. ‘Sam is a regular renaissance dog,’ Sam’s owner Mary Stadelbacher texplains, ‘his abstract paintings are all the rage with the hip New York galleries.’ Facing Sam’s abstractions, we are excited to show Keith Arnatt’s Walking the Dog (1976-79). Ostensibly, Arnatt’s photographs show dog’s walking their humans. What if it were the other way round?

Micro-narratives emerge in the exhibition selection. Between 1966-68 American artist John Baldessari painted his Tips for Artists who Want to Sell. Baldessari’s monochrome painting is an arch commentary on ideal subject matter for paintings. Among those ideal subjects are: Madonna and child, landscapes, flower paintings, nudes, bulls and, of course, dogs. Tips for Artists who Want to Sell is hung in the Dog House studio next to one of Baldessari’s notorious pointing works. The pointing works are a number of photographs Baldessari took in which his hand points with the index finger to things of interest. Dog Kindness presents pointing off frame, a work in which Baldessari points at President Nixon’s dog Checkers left of frame. Opposite – an instance of curatorial doggedness, perhaps – hangs James Seymour’s majestic portrait Pointer Bitch (1740).

We could take the year on year success of dog paintings at the Royal Academy Summer Show as a measure of the public’s endearing love for dogs. Last year one work at the Summer Show – which we are pleased to be exhibiting – hinted at the changing taste of dog loving art-buyers – against which Baldessari’s work looked dated. Simon Brundret’s Dog in a Bin (2011) is an adorable kinetic sculpture of a whippet devouring rubbish from a bin.

The Gromit Room explores how human division of labour extends to the canine species. For over ten years whippets and greyhounds have been the subject of British photographer Jo Longhurst’s work. Running along the south wall are selections of three bodies of Longhurt’s work: I know What You’re Thinking (2003), Vincent (2004) and Untitled I, II, III, and Portrait of a dog (2005-6). Facing these, along the north wall, is a selection of dog portraits by the supreme animal artist George Stubbs, including: A Couple of Foxhounds (1792), Brown and White Norfolk Water Spaniel (1777) and Fino & Tiny (1791).

Earlier this year we advertised a nationwide open call for artists to propose interventions in the Gromit Room. In June our panel of experts, including the art historian Osith Chich, critic Byron Suey and artist Rolf Harris, selected the Nottingham artist Ruth Rough’s hard hitting work Garbage Disposal. Garbage Disposal consists of a dozen black bags arranged centrally in a line along the length of the room. Each bag comes between a painting and a photograph. Rough’s intervention is designed to draw attention to the dozens of working greyhounds who, no longer able to race, are simply tied up in bin bags and dumped in the river Trent in Nottingham.

In a room to the rear of the Gromit Room is a multi-screen video installation of Angela Bartram’s series Licking Dogs (2007).  A close shot frames the artist facing a variety of dog breeds, including German shepherds, newfoundlands and rottweilers. A disclaimer on the wall reads:

No dog was harmed in the making of Licking Dogs and none were forced to take part. Each dog worked in collaboration with the artist: they were licked as an invitation to take part and it was up to them how they responded.

By inverting the normal relationship between the licker and the licked, Bartram broaches the taboo subject of human-animal eroticism, and dispels public anxiety about demonised breeds. For Dog Kindness Bartram will lick a Staffordshire bull terrier.

In the Wolf-Like room Dog Kindness considers relatives of the dog, including coyotes, wolves and foxes. For the duration of the exhibition German Fluxus artist Joseph Beuys will perform a reprise of his notorious work I Like America and America Likes Mee (1974) with a twist. Beuys will be locked away in the presence of a coyote as usual, however for Dog Kindness he will be accompanied by two modern artworks: Francis Bacon’s Study of a Dog (1952) and Kurt Schwitters’ Picture of Spatial Growths – Picture with Two Small Dogs (1920-39).

These are only a selection of the works on show at Dog Kindness. To see more, including Colin Self’s Pluto (1964-5) John Davies’ Dog Man (1972), Elizabeth Price’s Mummified Dog with a Rat in its Mouth from her 2005 show at OUTPOST gallery Norwich, join us from the 25 August 2012.

Special Guests:
Those lucky enough to attend this year’s dOCUMENTA festival in Kassel may have witnessed pink legged dogs wondering around a swampy hinterland: this is the work of French artist Pierre Huyghe. For Huyghe painting dogs is a material enquiry into organic and inorganic support. If you missed the dogs at dOCUMENTA Dog Kindness offers a chance to meet the dogs. On a break from being artworks, Huyghe’s hounds will join us for one day only on Tuesday 18 September 2012. No petting the artworks.

Throughout the exhibition there will be a ‘fox in residence’. This fox comes with strong recommendations by none other than Francis Alÿs. ‘Bandit’, who was formerly fox in residence at the National Gallery in London, will be in the galleries every evening after hours. The results of Bandit’s residency will be on show at the Zabludowicz Collection, London next autumn.

On Wednesday 19 September we will be joined by that dog from Andrei Tarkovsky’s Stalker (1979). That dog will be available for portrait photographs.

Mind Unleashed: Thursday 20 September 2012
Join us at 7pm on Thursday 20 September for a reading by Rolf Harris of Thomas Mann’s Herr und Hund (1918) in the presence of Keith Arnatt’s Walking the Dog photographs.

Matt E. Mulsion: Friday 21 September 2012
In 1979 Robin Klassnik opened Matt’s Gallery in London. He named the gallery after his English sheep dog ‘Matt E. Mulsion’. Klassnik joins us in conversation about his dog.

In conversation: Heinrich Wölfflin Saturday 22 September 2012
Legendary art historian Heinrich Wölfflin takes Titian’s Allegory of Prudence (1550?) as a point of departure for a discussion of the history of dog painting.

Regarding Dogs: Matinee Screenings
Monday 10 September 2012
Turner & Hooch Dir. Roger Spottiswoode (1989)

Tuesday 11 September 2012
My Dog Tulip Dirs. Paul and Sandra Fierlinger, (2009

Wednesday 12 September 2012
Alphabet Soup Dir. William Wegman (2006)

Thursday 13 September 2012
Benji Dir. Joe Camp (1974)

Friday 14 September 2012
The Shaggy Dog Dir. Charles Barton (1954)

Regarding Dogs: Artists’ Moving Image
Saturday 8 September 2012
The Mongreloid Dir. George Kuchar (1978)
Passage à l’chien Dir. Martin Arnold (1992)
Little Dog for Roger Dir. Malcolm le Grice (1967)
A Dog Day Afternoon Dir. Matthew Noel-Tod (2011-12)
Sick as a Dog Dir. Iain Bourn (1989)
Selection of talking dog YouTube clips (curated by Sam the painting dog)

Auction: September 1 2012
For a chance to win an exclusive Substance Dualist Abstraction by ‘Sam’ why not attend our fundraising event on September 1? Sam, a genuine ‘Ruffko’, secured his place in art history last year when one of his abstracts sold at auction for $1,500. We are thrilled Sam agreed – one bark ‘yes’, two barks ‘no’ – to donate the work.

*Image:  ‘A Brazilian Cannibal’, from A Collection of Engravings, Etchings and Woodcuts of Various Sizes, Mainly Illustrating the Costumes of Different Nations…’ a folio compilation of c. 1550-1650 now in the British Library, London


Jonathan P Watts is a writer, editor and artist’s assistant based between Norfolk and London. Earlier this year he was writer in residence at the inaugural LUX/ICA Biennial of Moving Images. In September he will host ‘No Such a Thing as Landscape’ – a programme of British artists’ film and video about landscape at South London Gallery.


Share : twitter_icon_footer facebook_icon_footer