Swimming Through

December 9, 2011 Comments Off


Michael Dweck, Mermaid 2, Gelatin Silver Print, 49 x 60, Miami, 2006, Courtesy and © Michael Dweck.

An exhibition of works from American photographer Michael Dweck opens today at the Staley-Wise Gallery in New York which runs through 11 February, 2012. Timed to coincide with the international release of Dweck’s third and latest book Habana Libre (Damiani editore, 2011), and feature the New York debut of photographs from Habana Libre, along with rare iconic images from his previous work The End: Montauk, NY (2004). “Both ‘The End’ and ‘Habana Libre’ are snapshots of places in time and ways of life that are either fading or being completely reinvented,” said Artist Michael Dweck. “The most obvious similarities are aesthetic -beautiful people in striking island settings. That was my initial attraction to both locales; this charmed life, the fantastical elements of seduction.”


Michael Dweck, Kurt and Jessica, Gelatin Silver Print, 16 x 20, Montauk, New York, 2002, Courtesy and © Michael Dweck.


Michael Dweck, Dave and Pam in their Caddy, Gelatin Silver Print, 16 x 20, Montauk, New York, 2002, Courtesy and © Michael Dweck.

Dweck’s highly acclaimed The End: Montauk NY, portrays the old fishing community of Montauk (on Long Island) and its subculture -a tribe of surfing young locals who live by their own rules. Rule number 1: Never tell anyone where the good surf spots are. Rule number 2: See rule number 1. Wherein Dweck documents an evocative real-world paradise lost: of summer, youth, and erotic possibility; of community and camaraderie in a special place apart  -an American version of the Arcadian vision. Blending nostalgia, fantasy, and documentation the photographs present an appealing portrait of a place in time and a way of life at once fading and being reinvented with each new season.


Michael Dweck, Jacqueline at the Panoramic View Motel, Gelatin Silver Print, 14 7/8 x 18 7/8, Montauk, New York, 2002, Courtesy and © Michael Dweck.

“However, after spending a lot of time in these places with these people I found more interesting connections,” Dweck continues. “Here are two worldly paradises, both built-up in the 50’s and preserved since – for better or worse; both populated by insular groups in some kind of isolation, whether it’s self or externally imposed; both beset by threats from without and by new hierarchies from within.” The implied subtext of seduction, isolation and the individual’s interpretation of freedom threads through both series.

Dweck_Love Bug

Michael Dweck, Love Bug, Abandoned on Montauk Highway,
Chromogenic Print, 20 x 16, Montauk, New York, 2002, Courtesy and © Michael Dweck.

Habana Libre, a cultural bohemia reminiscent of 1930’s Paris salons is an island intrigue, playing on the theme of privilege in a classless society, beauty and art in one of the last communist capitals. It is an insider’s exploration of one close-knit group of well-connected friends -the creative elite, living a secret, charmed life in Cuba. The elegance and intimacy of this social world and the identities of some of the players adds to the intrigue, given that this is happening in Castro’s Cuba. With unprecedented (and unrestricted) access to this hidden society of keenly observant artists, writers, musicians and glamorous models -the underground intelligentsia who will define the countryʼs post-Castro generation, come to life. Their every move is an elaborate dance of success and survival, a constant play of appearances, a tempting game of cat and mouse, which had never been experienced by anyone in the West and is still not acknowledged within Cuba itself. “Habana Libre is a story suggested, never told,” he explained. “Its subtext is an allegory of seduction, a ‘forbidden island’ that embodies a provocative mix of danger, tension, authority and mystery; teeming with an intoxicating air of sensuality and a rhythmic, almost hypnotic undercurrent.”


Michael Dweck, Giselle Karina Bacallao Moreno and Rachel (painter/artist/muse) going for a spin on the Malecon, Habana, 2009, Courtesy and © Michael Dweck.

In February 2012, Habana Libre will be exhibited at the Fototeca de Cuba Museum in Havana, Cuba. It marks the first time an American artist has been invited to show contemporary work in a solo exhibition there. The exhibition will also travel to Tokyo, Paris, and New York, and is presently included in Art Basel, Miami.


Michael Dweck, Breakdown: Javier and Januaria suffer a breakdown, both the car and the relationship, Habana, 2009, Courtesy and © Michael Dweck

The two themes of ‘watching’ and ‘iconography’ -recur throughout both photographic series/books, which are seemingly obsessed with voyeurism (a perhaps unsurprising obsession for a photographer) and whose frequently iconic images seem ready-made to implant themselves on the American conscience. That said, the work is fascinating, compelling from both an aesthetic and psychological and certainly sociological, point of view. And the books themselves are beautiful, from cover, image, paper to binding, indeed they are an actual pleasure to hold/behold.

The Books



A collector’s limited edition box set of Michael Dweck: Habana Libre, along with an 8×10 print both signed by the artist is also available.


Michael Dweck is a native New Yorker. Educated at Pratt Institute, his photographs have been published in a broad selection of magazines. No newcomer to the power of imagery began his career in advertising and went on to becoming an award-winning creative director and has received over 40 international awards, including a Gold Lion at the Cannes International Festival. Two of his long-form television pieces are in the permanent collection at The Museum of Modern Art.

Dweck’s photographs were first showcased at Sotheby’s, New York, in 2003, in their first solo exhibition for a living photographer. Dweck’s work has become part of important international art collections and has been exhibited extensively throughout the world, with solo exhibitions at the Staley-Wise Gallery (New York), Modernism (San Francisco), Acte2 (Paris), Maruani & Noirhomme (Belgium), and the Blitz Gallery (Tokyo).

He lives and works in New York City and Montauk.

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