No Dogs Allowed: How William Wegman Broke the Rules of Conceptual Art

The mid-century East Coast variety of Conceptual art was all about rules—dictums defined the idea, like lines in a drawing. Artists like Sol LeWitt established procedures through which a work of art could be reproduced by anyone with the instructions to make it. Others, like Adrian Piper, posited rules to a viewer who, by following along, participated in an artistic act. This notion that an idea could be defined as a work of art was seen as radically democratic and anti-authorial. It was hailed as a “dematerialization of the art object” by critics like Lucy Lippard and John Chandler, and a challenge to the prevailing mythology of the artist's hand. But for all this air of iconoclasm, it took a real jokester to truly turn these paradigms around, to show how opaque and forbidding orders could actually reinforce stoic notions about art.