Interview | Dogs Make Their Mark at Dogumenta

Photo: Dogumenta

Man’s best friends have their own bars, spas, and hotels so Dogumenta (the first curated art show for dogs) seems like the next step in canine culture.

Started in 2017 by a couple of New York dog lovers (Jessica Dawson, Mica Scalin), the first week of the Los Angeles edition at Fig At 7th has drawn packs of culture hounds who’ve come to see (and pee) on artwork commissions from local artists: Meena Khalili, Janne Larsen, Joshua Levine, Gary Lockwood aka Freehand Prophet, Tucker Marder, Tibi Tibi Neuspiel, Ruben Rojas, Alex Sheriff, Sabrina Clouden, and Gali Basel

Related: There’s An Island Filled With Dogs And Clearly It’s The Best Place On Earth

As Dogumenta heads for its second week (Sept. 21 through Sunday, Sept. 23. 11am to 6pm), I chatted with Dawson, who is also a respected two-legged art critic (Village Voice, Washington Post) about why we needed a dog art exhibit, interactive art you can pee on, and dog art criticism.

 Mandatory: How did you come up with this new breed of art exhibit? 

Jessica Dawson: I’m an art critic based in New York. I was doing my gallery walks when I met a special little guy on a Monday at a shelter in Soho. His name was Rocky. On Tuesday, I asked him to move in with me. Rocky started going to the galleries with me. I was taking notes and feeling overwhelmed by the whole New York art world. Rocky was having a much better time than I was. He didn’t read the press releases, New York Times reviews. He just went straight up to the work and engaged in it with a sniff. If he didn’t like something he would just turn tail and leave. I thought, why not give back to the canine community and give pups their own show. 

Word at the local dog park was that Rocky helped curate the show? 

He’s been taking business trips to LA for the past year to go on studio visits with all the artists. They showed him models, materials, propositions and he gave them feedback. If he went up to a piece and was really sniffing around, tail wagging, we knew the piece was done. 

Interactive art is all the rage now, but Dogumenta has taken it to a new low (in a good way). 

In our New York show, one of the artists asked that the dogs make their mark on his art piece because each time they peed there would be washes of color that would be generated so essentially the dogs became the artists. We have a piece here by Alex Sheriff (“Monument to the Birth of Dogs Through Their Friendship With Humans”), which features a pyramid where each level that the dog steps on shows the physical evolution of how dogs became domesticated. Essentially, the piece is not complete without dogs on it. 

So what art pieces seem to be most popular with dogs?  

Some pups gravitate towards work that’s sculptural, others are going to go straight towards the ones they can munch on. We have a mini-dog scaled mural piece from Ruben Rojas that’s been quite popular and an inflatable piece by Joshua Levine.

Some might think this is crazy or a joke, but it actually seems natural as the human-dog relationship keeps evolving.  

We’ve been creating and sharing art amongst ourselves so why can’t art be a cultural experience that’s shared with our closest four-legged companions. Rocky and the canine community have a lot to teach us about how we look at contemporary art. We never know what art we should like or dislike, but if dogs like something they will make a mark, it’s a form of communication, like “Hey, I’m interested in this. You need to check this out.” 

For more information on Dogumenta go HERE. The last weekend’s shows at Fig At 7th are this Sept. 21-23, Fri-Sun from 11am to 6pm.