Choreograph Press Release
November 18, 2015—January 30, 2016
David Zwirner is pleased to present an exhibition of new works by James Welling, on view at 519 West 19th Street in New York. Choreograph debuts a series of digital photographs of dance, with elements of architecture and/or landscape. These were made by placing three different black-and-white photographs into Adobe Photoshop's red, green, and blue color channels, thus yielding a multilayered color image similar to double exposures in analog photography. The artist then alters it using Photoshop tools (hue/saturation and selective color), and as adjustments are made, various parts of the image come forward or recede.
Welling's interest in dance dates back to 1970 when he saw the Merce Cunningham Dance Company perform while at university in Pittsburgh. He took dance classes at the time, but after transferring to the California Institute of the Arts, he turned to photography as his medium. This exhibition marks his return to dance, albeit in photographic form.
For Choreograph, Welling photographed performances by over a dozen dance companies in New York and Los Angeles, and superimposed these images with photographs of architecture and landscape. Architecture has been a long-standing interest of the artist's (with earlier projects including Los Angeles Architecture and Portraits, 1976–1978; Architectural Photographs/Buildings by H. H. Richardson, 1988–1994; Light Sources, 1977–2005; Glass House, 2006–2010; and Maison de Verre, 2009), and for Choreograph, he photographed buildings by Marcel Breuer and Paul Rudolph, among others. The landscapes include a large open field in western Connecticut that Welling visited as a dance student, and locations in Florida, Maine, Switzerland, and Washington.
In an artist's statement for Choreograph, Welling notes: "To my surprise the buildings and landscapes that I used often seem to function like theatrical stages for the dancers. The open fields I photographed also suggest a kind of 'chora'–Greek for space and the root of choreograph. By choosing to use 'choreograph,' drawing with space, as a noun, I am noting its similarity to 'photograph, drawing with light."
Los Angeles-based architectural firm Johnston Marklee has created the exhibition design for the show by introducing a zigzag-shaped wall, which functions as a stage curtain.