521 W 21st Street
NEW YORK—The Paula Cooper Gallery is pleased to present an exhibition of photographs, slides and video work by photographer, dancer and choreographer Arnie Zane (1948-1988), in celebration of the 20th Anniversary of the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company.
The exhibition will include a selection of photographs spanning Zane’s entire body of work, a series of Magic Lantern slides based on original and found photography, and an early video work entitled First Portrait Drawing. Together, the works on view evince Zane’s fascination with the physicality of the human body as well as his interest in the intersections between photography, performance, dance, and politics.
Zane’s first photographs, shot in Amsterdam, Binghamton and San Francisco in the early 1970s, manifest a romantic sensibility and a predilection for glamour and camp. They are staged portraits of friends, posing naked, costumed, or in drag, emanating a mix of playfulness and erotic intensity. Zane printed these images several times, experimenting with various kinds of toning, staining, solarizing, matting and framing, all of which were extensions of the theatricality and seduction of the portraits themselves. Depictions of the body and sexuality, already evident in these early portraits, become the central focus of Zane’s later works. With the photographs of Pearl Pease, a homeless woman whom Zane and Jones encountered while driving in Binghamton, Zane turned to a starkly realistic exploration of the aging body. Framed and cropped to create deliberately abrupt compositions, the photographs of Pearl elude social commentary or melodramatic discourse on illness, focusing instead on crevices, folds and scars—on the very physicality of Pearl’s body. Likewise, Zane’s series of torso photographs focuses on the anatomical as a way of debunking received ideas of physical beauty and expanding our definitions of identity and sexuality. In Jonathan Green’s words, “they are an attempt at a redefinition of the polarized nature of male and female, and of society’s pigeonholing of body types, ages and sensibilities.”
Also on view is a series of Magic Lantern slides, originally created to be projected during performances, and still used in this way in restagings of Jones/Zane collaborations. This work shows Zane analyzing found images; reorganizing visual meaning by zooming in on distinct parts and reframing them, crystallizing his gaze, and revealing overlooked details. The slides also present an early example of what was to become a frequent postmodern artistic strategy: the sampling of images from popular culture or archival material and their reinsertion in a contemporary context.
First Portrait Drawing is a video work in which snapshots of Zane in white garb are integrated into his solo performance piece on a Binghamton rooftop. The snapshots record Zane’s body in motion and are edited together over the voice of Enrico Caruso singing La donna è mobile. This multi-layered self-portrait marks the first time Zane used photography as a corollary to performance or dance. This exhibition of works by Arnie Zane is the first in New York since Zane’s death. It would not have been possible without the groundbreaking work of Jonathan Green, director of the UCR/California Museum of Photography in Riverside, CA, where the first comprehensive assessment of Zane’s photography, Continuous Replay: The Photographs of Arnie Zane, opened in May 1999. A catalogue edited by Green was published in conjunction with the exhibition by MIT Press and is available at 192 Books (192 Tenth Avenue).
Arnie Zane was born in 1948 in New York. He and Bill T. Jones met at the State University of New York at Binghamton in the spring of 1971, the same year Zane began photographing seriously. In 1973, Zane and Jones formed the American Dance Asylum in Binghamton with Lois Welk. Zane’s first recognition in the arts came as a photographer when he received a Creative Artists Public Service (CAPS) Fellowship in 1973. He was the recipient of a second CAPS Fellowship in 1981 for choreography, as well as two Choreographic Fellowships from the NEA (1983 and 1984). The Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company was founded in 1982, the product of an 11-year collaboration. The company is celebrating its twentieth anniversary this year with an international tour, including four performances at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM), February 3, 5, 6 and 7, 2004.