Imagine you could take a dancer and place her anywhere in time and space.
That’s what James Welling did for his latest photo installation, “Choreograph,” now open at the David Zwirner Gallery in Chelsea.
Welling’s series takes photos of dancers during rehearsals and superimposes them over photographs of landscapes and creatively designed buildings. The resulting images are a trip — psychedelic, thanks to the vibrant colors, and diverse moods, which correspond to the base landscape.
“I’ve been struck by the idea of double exposure,” Welling said during an exhibition tour this week. “It’s been lost in the transition to digital photography.”
Still, he admitted, he uses an inkjet printer and a digital layering process, as opposed to physically double-exposing negatives and printing them in the darkroom.
But even his Photoshop approach, which involved turning three black-and-white photos into a chromatic, multilayered image via red, green and blue color channels, was “very chaotic,” according to Welling.
That chaos translates to the finished products. Phantom limbs float among bare trees bleeding orange in an image inspired by Ovid’s “Metamorphosis.” A student center at the University of Massachusetts is layered over ballet stars. A contemporary dance rehearsal seems to float on water.
Welling’s interested in the way bodies are “transformed by nature, architecture,” he says. His featured locations include Connecticut, Florida, Maine, Switzerland and Washington, D.C.; his featured buildings include structures by Marcel Breuer and Paul Rudolph.
These locations work like physical sets. Open, natural spaces take on a life of their own, while the building backdrops tend to blend in, letting the dancers take center stage.
It’s a neat exploration of bodies for an artist already well-versed in architecture, a subject Welling has explored in numerous projects over the years, including his “Glass House” series. “Choreograph” populates his spaces, and enmeshes inanimate objects with the most animate-possible form — a body in motion.
The exhibit, which runs through Jan. 16, is definitely worth a look, and then a second look. There is a lot to see in every image.
If you go: ‘Choreograph’ runs through January 16, 2016, at the David Zwirner Gallery, 519 West 19th St., 212-727-2070, davidzwirner.com, Free