Best known as a cofounder of the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company, Arnie Zane actually began
his exploration of the human form through photography rather than dance. Continuous Replay, on view
in the museum's Theater Gallery, examines Zane's photographic oeuvre both before and after he rose to
fame as a choreographer with Bill T. Jones. The show provides fascinating insights into the intersections
of these two very different modes of expression and how each informed the other within Zane's vision.
Zane met Jones in 1971 and the two became partners in both life and art until Zane's death from AIDS
in 1988. The earliest photographs in the exhibition date from 1971, though in appearance they could
have been Pictorialist images made at the turn of the twentieth century. Printed in sepia tones, they are
posed, highly theatrical depictions of Zane's circle of friends. Even so, they reflect a great deal of interest
in the movement and postures of the human body expressing itself.
Zane's real strength was in the genre of portraiture. (Even his first dance solo, in 1973, was titled First
Portrait.) By the mid-1970s, Zane began exploring nontraditional subjects in his portraits, for example,
creating tightly cropped, frontally posed images of an aging eccentric. Zane also began to work on a
series of nude torsos of Jones, other dancers, neighborhood toughs, and various acquaintances. He
hoped to convey through gestures and attitudes the interior lives of his subjects.
As Zane blossomed as a choreographer, he also experimented with time and space in his photography.
He made serialized images, projected them as slide pieces, and created video works. He found that
through repeating images he could construct a rhythm and build momentum in a way akin to dance. The
dance company itself began incorporating projections into some of its pieces.
The exhibition and accompanying catalog revisit Zane's work and find in it a sustained investigation of
the body, the production of identity, and the rhetoric of difference. It is confrontational in the manner of
the dance company's noted works, and always aware of the expressive value of gesture and the
relationship between sight and knowledge.
Former Assistant Curator
Arnie Zane: Frank
c. 1975 (detail);