Dietrich Wegner, "Skin Deep" at Robert Berman Gallery- Art Ltd (September/October 2012)
Published in 1964, The Giving Tree, written and illustrated by Shel Silverstein, tells the story of a boy's lifelong relationship with a tree that provides fruit, shade, shelter, and security. Literally rooted to the soil, the tree offers itself to the needs of the boy as he ages. The tree remains a constant source of certainty in a changing landscape. The relationship between man and nature presented in Silverstein's classic manifests in Dietrich Wegner's solo exhibition Skin Deep, which explores the fear of nuclear annihilation and the impending danger imposed on the living and unborn. In the archival print titled Giving Tree, Apple Drop, a fiery mushroom cloud explosion blurs the edges of the frame into nuclear oblivion, which dwarfs a small illustration on the bottom of the frame. Created in the style of Silverstein's rough line work the drawing depicts the boy from The Giving Tree receiving a falling apple from the clouds. His outstretched arms and innocent smile ignore the threat of destruction that lays before him; rather the boy accepts this as his natural environment. The motif of the mushroom cloud is repeated first as a small case study in the form of black and white prints with an illustrated rope ladder inserted beneath the cap of smoke. Wegner seems to suggest children growing up an in apocalyptic world are immune to the threats of nuclear danger or that the mushroom cloud has replaced Silverstein's tree, which now reflects a very different world.
Perhaps the most stunning component of the exhibition--second to the urethane sculptures of infants tattooed in corporate logos--is Playhouse, (2005-2012) a massive installation of poly-fil, rope, and wood in the middle of the gallery space. Suspended in time and space, the lush and dense material is made to mimic a cloud that is both majestic and lethal. Wegner invites us to survey the sculpture in the round, so that we can meditate on the duality of the structure and imagine what it may be like to climb up the wooden ladder, which tempts us overhead but is too far from reach. We have become the boy whose outstretched arms are to receive the bounty from the Earth.