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As Time Goes By - Dance and Stone - Photographs by Andre Naggar - New Works: Two Suites, Dancers :: Egypt at the John Stevenson Gallery

by Richard Penberthy
February 22, 2006
John Stevenson Gallery
338 West 23rd Street
New York, NY 10011
(212) 352-0070

As Time Goes By - Dance and Stone - Photographs by Andre Naggar - New Works: Two Suites, Dancers :: Egypt at the John Stevenson Gallery

Richard Penberthy
February 22, 2006

The John Stevenson Gallery at 338 West 23rd Street in Manhattan has mounted an unusual show of the recent work of French photographer Andre Naggar. Half the photographs are black and white images of ancient Egyptian sculpture and architecture; whereas half are colorful swirling images of modern dance in motion (the Paul Taylor Dance company gave Naggar special access). The two styles - different genres, really - couldn't be less similar except that both record the work of Time, the grace it lends and the toll it takes.

The Egyptian photographs record the fragments, what's left of proud dynastic Egypt. These black and white images alone are worth the visit, detailed and precise. Composition and surface tell much of the story, but scale tells the rest. Two large seated rulers, a pharaoh and his wife, familiar to us and often photographed in all their pomposity are here shot against the desert background from a distance, showing the tourist barriers/ropes around them and an incidental custodian. Taken out of the art-history context, they seem pure folly, their features nothing more than aged and fissured stone. And, an image shot looking skyward from inside the Great Temple, centers a broad V, the corner of a dawn-lit pediment full of hieroglyphs and gods - a sun-gilded surface that erases the rest of the world. What matters is that in every photograph the passage of time makes a difference - millennia of desert sun and sand and wind erosion or sunrise light at the Great Temple. These images are of stillness and silence only because we do not see the millennial rush of time that has left some things sharp-edged and bright while it has left others sanded and matte.

The second suite of 12 photographs captivates with images of bright, swirling, seductive golden dance. To create them, Naggar photographed the Paul Taylor Dancers in motion. The result is infinitely better than, but similar to, those sometimes beautiful double images amateurs made with household cameras before dictatorial technology denied us that possibility. These twelve must have been winnowed from hundreds of images. They are each and all glowing and beautiful. The composition of moving limbs and costumes works primarily because in each image, there are static features, things to explore in a face, in a torso, a midsection in mid-leap. It is our nature to seek meaning, to ascribe import to what we can discern, what we can focus on, in the midst of movement. So, a face less blurred by movement draws our attention, and we wonder at it. Wonder is a fine thing, we seduce ourselves with it. It defeats time.

Dance photography is such a broad category that it can encompass the work of Kenn Duncan, long gone, who made his images for magazines, some of them also long gone, of dancers at rest but muscular and sexy. Some dance photographers still make these images, while some have gone more contemplative, less fleshly ways. These Naggar photographs are less of dancers than of dance itself. Dance cannot be captured - not even in memory, really. But these photographs bring dance closer than memory, they bring dance as pleasure. Time and dance and wonder: visit this exhibit for the pleasure of it.

The show runs from January 18 through February 25, 2006.

John Stevenson Gallery
338 West 23rd Street
New York, New York
10011-2201
(212) 352-0070
www.johnstevenson-gallery.com


Paul Taylor Dance Company
Photo courtesy of John Stevenson Gallery

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