California A - Z And Return

by John FitzGibbon
The Butler Institute of American Art, Youngstown, Ohio, 1990

Just about all the really important awards that can come to a photographer have been Bill Dane's, most of them more than once. A favorite of Diane Arbus, a principal inheritor of the traditions of his friend Garry Winogrand and of Robert Frank, Dane is still mostly unhonored in their and his country - a situation he faces with humor, a staple of his art and personality. Dane's is an epic vision and a comic, and if there is such a genre as epic-comedy then Dane is Prince of it. He is an absolute master of visual contretemps; a sharp awareness of the absurdities of Nature-once-removed (as in dioramas and the like). If, as I am comfortable in prognosticating, historians look back on the last 35 years of our millennium as an unparalleled time of gross self-congratulatory corniness of taste, national bombast, and hapless credulity, Bill Dane will be singled out as a chief recorder. Not the least charm of his procedure is that Bill does it all with a completely straight face.

Dane brings to his work in color the sensibility of the fine painter he was trained. We are still testing the waters as to how simply, plainly gorgeous a color photograph can be. Bill's out there in them, just about up to his nose.