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  • Carin Ingalsbe, Ballet

November, 2010 More than any other art form, ballet – ‘masterpieces of humanity’ in choreographer Alonzo King’s words – represents the all-too-human paradox of boundless aspiration and corporeal limitation. The resulting mood of luxury and melancholy echoes through photographer Carin Ingalsbe’s compelling studies of ballet costumes unearthed from company storerooms in New York, Boston, Stockholm, and Paris. The seductive, lush colors and textures of these close-up views summon the transcendence of bygone performances while veiling the destructive consequences of their physical demands.

Named descriptively (Seafoam Tutu) or for roles generic (Court Jacket) and famous (Juliet), the photographs evoke both the particularity of the bodies that gave form to the dances and the abnegation of self that underlies the relentless training, ethereal skill, and multiple imaginations. Seemingly casual arrangements of random details--shoulder, bodice, neckline--conjure the music inherent in the shimmer, swirl, and precision of satin, ornamental trims, and embroidery. Sharing space with these vibrant yet essentially work clothes are images from Ingalsbe’s new series, showing unapologetically masculine, quotidian objects made fragile through use and time. These stark, tonal images--leather hockey mitts, ivory and ebony dominoes, Civil War bullets – are each assembled from hundreds of straight-on shots taken from every angle and then merged to achieve a hypernatural focus of intense physicality and haunting unreality. Here, precision discloses an enigmatic tenderness and poignancy. The tattered, broken subjects of ‘Boxing Gloves with Rosewood Veneer’ attain the straight forwardness, strength, and arresting quality of a WPA photograph in an exacting monochrome image that silvers the scuffs and ridges of leather and ground, invoking the ghostlike tug of memory.

The tension expected from such radically opposing subject matter as bullets and ballet is diffused by the consistency of the artist’s technique and vision. The dust, sweat, and filth of the used, even abused, dance costumes have been laboriously erased through technological intervention, just as subtle image-manipulation highlights every flaw in the chipped, pitted, and scraped remnants of sport and war. Ingalsbe considers these works portraits, and through her regard for the remnants of nameless lives, she brings specificity to time, offering windows to the worn-out past and mirrors on the wearing-away present. -- Susan Boulanger.


November, 17, 2010 Half the fun of Carin Ingalsbe’s lush color photos of antique ballet costumes at Lanoue Fine Art is the story behind them. Some of the costumes from the vaults of the Royal Swedish Ballet, according to the gallery’s assistant director Ruthie Tredwell, are 300-year-old hand-me-downs from Swedish royalty. “Blue Stripe Jacket’’ is one of these. While cuffs and collar are in tatters, you can see the intricate hand-stitching that went into flowers on every button and down the chest.

Ingalsbe arranges a costume, then shoots many photographs up close, and puts the images together digitally so that details such as frayed silk are not lost. “Blue Firebird’’ is from the New York City Ballet’s 1949 debut production of “Firebird,’’ for which Marc Chagall oversaw the design of sets and costumes. Ingalsbe composes fabrics from the costume like a Chagall watercolor, swooping and soft. Here, the photograph becomes almost abstract, a record of glittering textures and tones that evoke a particular dance, a particular artist, more than they convey the contours of a costume.

Photos of ballet costumes may appeal to a particular audience. Ingalsbe complements that selection with equally sumptuous images of other antiques, such as two pairs of leather boxing gloves, plump and weathered. They all share traces of long-ago stories, dances long since danced and punches long since thrown, still somehow nestled in the stitches. -- Cate McQuaid