Z is an exhibition of unique, glass plate portraits by American photographer Robyn Hasty. For the past year, Hasty has been an artist and teaching resident at Pioneer Works, exploring nineteenth century wet plate collodion tintype and ambrotype developing processes to produce an extensive series of nude portraiture. The resulting selection of portraits are both canonical and enigmatic; formally classical compositions that subtly challenge gender-binary conventions by disorienting the perception of how gender is expressed and embodied. The title of the exhibition refers to a proposed gender neutral pronoun.
Working with transgender, cisgender, and a spectrum of genderqueer and gender nonconforming individuals, Hasty’s work deconstructs the rigid, often limiting representation of the nude body in search of a more diverse, fluid identity. The portraits are richly textured studies of a solitary sitter or pair seated on a chaise lounge, in an environment whose detail all but evaporates at the peripheral edge of the glass plate. Hasty’s subjects defiantly gaze directly at the viewer, inverting the traditional role of the photographer’s gaze by challenging the viewer to question their own boundaries and definitions. As a result, the series evokes connection while also being deeply transgressive, straddling the line between vulnerability and empowerment that defines Hasty’s process.