Detail

Secret Pastures Collaborator Portrait

Grayscale photograph of Peter Gordon, a bald light-skinned man; Bill T. Jones, a tall dark-skinned man; Arnie Zane, a short light-skinned man; Keith Haring, a bespectacled light-skinned man; and Willi Smith, a bespectacled dark-skinned man, standing together in front of a painted floral backdrop
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American Musician and composer Peter Gordon met Willi Smith in 1984 on the set of Secret Pastures. Smith later commissioned Gordon to produce the music for his 1985 short film Expedition. Gordon shared his memories of Willi Smith stating, Willi worked and functioned in the world of fashion and design, but he was an artist who respected and admired other artists as creative equals.

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Bill T. Jones is the cofounder of the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company, and is a multitalented artist, choreographer, dancer, theater director, and writer who has received major honors, including a 1994 MacArthur “Genius” Award and Kennedy Center Honors in 2010. Jones and his partner Arnie Zane formed the dance company in 1982 and together produced 13 performance pieces that were notable for their incorporation of social commentary and identity.

“I remember that Willi was the kind of Black man that I didn’t know. A sophisticated, accomplished, gay Black man. But he was playing that kind of celebrity game, as well. The BAM Producers Council was formed to pull together various successful, glamorous people to support BAM’s growing mission. And the Next Wave brought in performers like me and Arnie Zane, who were just entry level. I mean, had I ever performed at an opera house before or on a big stage? No. They made that possible. Bill T. Jones

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Arnie Zane cofounded the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company with partner Bill T. Jones. Zane began dancing in 1971 and choreographed 41  performance pieces from 1973 until his death in 1988 from complications of AIDS.  

Zane and Jones first worked with Smith while developing Secret Pastures for the BAM Next Wave Festival. The pair collaborated with Smith again when they performed in the 1984 film Made in New York, directed by Les Levine for WilliWear.

4

Keith Haring was a leading figure in the East Village art scene of the 1970s and 80s. Best known for his graffiti drawings made in the subways and on the sidewalks of New York City, Haring expanded his work to include commercial products, graphic design, set design, and clothing in the hopes of accessing a wider public. Through his figural illustrations, Haring expressed universal concepts of birth, death, love, sex, and war, and addressed issues such as greed, racism, and homophobia in society. 

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Willi Smith wanted to see his clothing move on the street and on the stage. He approached costume design as an opportunity to emphasize the flexibility of his fashions and to support the work of groundbreaking performers. Smith’s unisex, interchangeable costumes for Secret Pastures expressed his own efforts to undermine stereotypes of gender and race. 

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The Garden of Radio Delight tarp painted by Keith Haring in 1984 for the set design of Secret Pastures. The tarp depicts phallic flowers in vibrant colors. 

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Out of the six interdisciplinary collaborators in Secret Pastures, half were lost to AIDS within a period of just five years: Willi Smith in 1987, Arnie Zane in 1988, and Keith Haring in 1990. The AIDS crisis decimated a generation of artists and thinkers who played a major role in New York’s creative community. 

The Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company premiered Secret Pastures at Brooklyn Academy of Music in 1984 with a set of collaborators who connected the stage to the street. Willi Smith created costumes; artist Keith Haring designed the set and promotional materials; hairstylist Marcel Fievre conceived androgynous brush cuts; and art-rock composer Peter Gordon and his Love of Life Orchestra composed the score. Secret Pastures explored politics, economics, race, and sexuality, depicting men dancing with each other, interracial communities, and Queer anticapitalism.

Peter Gordon, Bill T. Jones, Arnie Zane, Keith Haring, and Willi Smith. Photographed by Paula Court, 1984

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