Dancers and performers of all types increasingly find themselves in museums and galleries, so it may be surprising to see “performances” as the title for a photography exhibition. Performances stems from the idea that the divisions between the arts are not distinct, and that a true division between art and life is hard to find. Elizabeth Bick photographs both performers and pedestrians to expose the blurry division between street and stage and highlight the roles that looking and being looked at play in both contexts. She brings to this exhibition portions of three bodies of work that document and construct performances: Street Ballet, Every God, and Coda.
Bick photographs passersby and tourists in stripped-down and stage-like public spaces; she depicts performers in the intimacy of their own home. In Street Ballet, cool urban images reveal hidden performances on the street. She takes multiple photographs from the same vantage point, composing patterned “street ballets,” where pedestrians appear and coalesce into intricate formations before separating into individuals again.
In Every God, vacationers crowd the Pantheon in Rome, gawking at their ancient surroundings. The harsh light from the temple’s oculus throws shadows across their faces and shrouds some of the group, making the temple seem like a theater. As tourists drawn by a desire to see, travelers often ignore the seductive institutions that bring them there. By turning her lens toward the camera-wielding throng, Bick does not.
Coda, the most recent series, is the result of Bick’s partnership with former ballet dancer Linda Leven. By taking pictures of the performer Bick acts as choreographer and director. Yet she allows for Leven’s vision of herself as a conscious performance. While on the street, Leven garners looks through her costume-like clothing and stage-ready makeup. In these photographs, Bick makes obvious Leven’s construction of her own public persona, which is both intense and fragile.
Elizabeth Bick is a photographer based in New York City. She received a MFA in Photography from Yale University and a BFA in Photography from Loyola University. She has participated in residencies at LATITUDE Chicago, American Academy in Rome, Santa Fe Art Institute, Chateau La Napoule, LMCC, and has received grants from The Joan Mitchell Foundation, Pollock-Krasner Foundation, and the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston. Her work has been exhibited at Fraenkel Gallery, Aperture Foundation, Proposition Gallery, Lincoln Center, and Contemporary Arts Center New Orleans. Art News, Huffington Post, Interview, Lenscratch, The New York Times, Paper Journal, Photograph, San Francisco Chronicle, and Vice have featured her photographs. Bick is currently a Visiting Assistant Professor at Pratt Institute and a Lecturer at School of Visual Arts in the undergraduate photography department.
About the Curator
Elizabeth Welch is a PhD Candidate in art history at The University of Texas at Austin, where she served as the Visual Arts Center Curatorial Fellow and the 2016-2017 Andrew W. Mellon Fellow in Prints, Drawings, and European Paintings. She has spoken nationally and internationally about the relationship between the visual and performing arts. Her dissertation explores the 1942-1948 magazine, Dance Index, and the balletomanes and visual artists Joseph Cornell, George Platt Lynes, and Pavel Tchelitchew.