A gallery goes to the dogs

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  • Rocky and Jessica Dawson at Galerie Lelong & Co appreciating work by Jaume Plensa. Photo: Jason Falchoo

  • Art critic and professor Jessica Dawson and Rocky explore work by Yinka Shonibare at James Cohan. Photo: Jason Falchoo

  • Art critic and professor Jessica Dawson and Rocky take in a few of Allan McCollum's "Lost Objects" at Mary Boone Gallery. Photo: Jason Falchoo

  • Rocky checks out work by Wangechi Mutu at the Barbara Gladstone Gallery. Photo: Jason Falchook

An art critic and professor takes a cue from her Morkie


An art exhibit is taking the dog days of summer to another dimension.

The exhibit, dOGUMENTA, opening downtown this weekend, is being curated for our four-legged friends.

The show, at Arts Brookfield downtown, is the creation of art critic and professor of art history Jessica Dawson, who often frequents New York City art galleries with her rescue pooch, Rocky, an 8-year-old Morkie, or Yorkie-Maltese mix.

As she watched Rocky looking at art, Dawson had an epiphany: Why not have a gallery just for dogs? And dOGUMENTA — a riff on dOCUMENTA, the international art festival held in Germany — was born.

“I felt that it was time for canines to have an art show all their own” said Dawson, who, with Rocky’s inspiration, drafted a lecture that would become the backbone of dOGUMENTA: “5 Things My Dog Taught Me About Art.” She delivered the manifesto at a Brooklyn gallery in February.

Dawson, who lives in Chelsea, said it wasn’t difficult to convince 10 established and emerging artists to jump on board. Once they nailed down the venue, “we started hounding artists whose work we found interesting. We didn’t have to beg to get them engaged in the concept,” Dawson said, puns firmly established.

“Rocky has a curious nature that has made him a great curating partner,” she said. “He developed a rapport with the artists and together we had a dialog to determine which works would be most suitable for exhibition.”

The artists, she said, found the idea of creating something for a new audience particularly enticing. Artists typically create for the human eye, and dOGUMENTA provided an compelling challenge.

“Some make work about color and form, some make work about social issues, some explore architecture and space,” Dawson said. But all the pieces are created to accommodate a dog’s unique point of view, with displays close to the ground, and blue, yellow and grey color combinations — with few reds or greens, to accommodate the intended audience’s color spectrum. “There will be work that is about emotional issues dogs face — anxiety, which is common,” she added.

But it won’t all be visual. Expect media in forms of sound and even interactive elements. Dawson notes they are fully prepared for, and encourage, these natural interactions: “[Dogs] are also fearless and will engage with work in a variety of different ways — sniffing, peeing, licking. We expect a really diverse range of interactions. We look forward to learning from the show—will hounds react differently than terriers? Daschunds versus Dobermans?”

Dawson hopes the gallery inspires humans to view art, and the world, differently by witnessing their pets explore the exhibit. “dOGUMENTA offers both the chance for humans to get to know their canine friends better,” she said. “Attendees will gain new insights into their companion’s personality and character. It’s an opportunity for bonding and learning.”

The show runs August 11-13 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., with a daily break 1-4 p.m. so the pups can escape the heat. The exhibit, at 230 Vesey St., is free, but tickets can be reserved at www.dogumenta.org.

Don’t have a four-legged friend? On August 12, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., Bideawee will be on site with dogs up for adoption.

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