September 26, 1957 |
Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
|Field||Fine art photography, Filmmaking|
Michael Dweck (born 26 September 1957) is an American visual artist and filmmaker known for his suggestive photographic style. The concept of beauty and its aesthetics are important themes in his work and are explored through both figurative and abstract means. In 2003, he became the first living photographer to have a solo show at Sotheby's in New York. He lives and works in New York City and in Montauk, New York.
The New York hamlet of Montauk, located at the far eastern tip of Long Island, played a formative role in Dweck's work and was the subject of his first major exhibition and book, The End: Montauk, N.Y. Dweck discovered the community in the 1970s and was inspired by the surfer culture he found there.
Early life and education
Dweck was born in Brooklyn to David and Sydelle Dweck. He was raised in Bellmore, New York, a town on Long Island about 27 miles east of Manhattan and close to many beaches. He credits his early interest in the water to fishing trips he took with his father as a child, and started taking pictures on Jones Beach in the 1970s.
Dweck graduated from Bellmore's John F. Kennedy High School in 1975. He attended Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, first as an architecture student, then switching to communication and fine arts in 1976. After graduating in 1979, he went on to study with artist James Wines and with semiotician Marshall Blonsky at The New School for Social Research.
Dweck & Campbell
In 1993, Dweck founded the advertising agency Dweck & Campbell with Lori Campbell. In a 1998 interview with CNN Money, Dweck was quoted as saying "Advertising is the quintessential sitcom. The love affairs with clients, the breakups, the coming back together again and, of course, the constant reruns." A highlight for the firm in 1998 was its Dial-a-Mattress television commercial featuring an angry, man-sized squirrel who wants to hibernate for the winter. The ad, noted for its comic abrasiveness, was pulled from the airwaves after only 13 days. It then went on to win a coveted Gold Lion award at the Cannes International Advertising Festival, and was selected for inclusion in both the Gale Group's 100 most influential marketing campaigns of the year and Boards magazine's Top 10 Boards awards of 1999.
After the agency won the American Association of Advertising Agencies 1999 award for small agencies, Campbell departed the firm, and it was renamed Dweck, Inc. The firm continued with its "usual creative mischief", doubling its previous year's billings to $50 million.
In 2001, Dweck closed his company and left advertising to concentrate on photography. He was quoted in The New York Times as saying he wanted to "concentrate on what I love, which is creative development."
|“||There are no rules in Montauk. There are no traffic lights, and even the policemen are surfers. Your good looks are your currency in this community.||”|
—Michael Dweck, Esquire UK, June 2004
In 2002, Dweck began to focus his efforts towards his work in the visual arts. He has expressed his preference for being called a visual artist rather than a photographer, saying "We're entering a time when people think downloading Instagram on your iPhone makes you a photographer, and I think it's important that any true photographer, one who has heart and vision, distances himself or herself from that."
The End: Montauk, N.Y.
After closing his advertising agency, in 2002 Dweck began to photograph subjects and scenes around Montauk, focusing on its surfing subculture. The photos evoked "the paradise of summer, youth, and erotic possibility, and of community and camaraderie in a perfect setting." The work is a blend of nostalgia, documentary, and fantasy.
Dweck would parlay this collection of art photos into the 2003 solo show at Sotheby's in New York and the 2004 first published book of his photographs titled The End: Montauk, N.Y., published by Harry N. Abrams. The 5,000-print run was sold out in less than three weeks. The brisk sell-out of the book was attributed to its local interest, the beauty of the photography, and the allure of the nude models.
The signature image of the book is Sonya, Poles, described as a portrait of "ecstatic summer" featuring a young woman in "full naked glory... breasts aloft" running across the beach, surfboard tucked under her opposing arm. One print of this photo sold for over $17,000, and then another sold for $30,000. Esquire Magazine dubbed the image "best surfboard" in its monthly cultural round-up.
Many of the photos from The End were exhibited at numerous galleries and solo exhibitions in New York, Belgium, San Francisco, Monaco, and the Blitz Gallery in Tokyo, and the Gallery Orchard in Nagoya. Dweck's work was also presented at art fairs in Paris and Bologna.
Dweck worried that the allure of his photographs would call more unwanted attention to the quiet culture of Montauk, saying:
That's the way it always goes, isn't it? Everyone who makes it to the fallout shelter tries to bolt the door behind him. It's like some graffiti I read in the stall at the Shagwong Tavern. "Welcome to Montauk. Take a picture and get the f--- out."
Here are my pictures. Please, please stay away just a little longer.
In July 2011, it was reported that Kanye West's video director Hype Williams scouted Montauk as a possible site for a music video. Williams was seen with Dweck's book, looking for the locations featured in it.
In 2005, Dweck released a series of triptychs entitled Three, which were exhibited in Tokyo. With ninety images set on 15 foldout pages, only one hundred copies of Three were printed, each signed and numbered.
Dweck enjoyed night fishing off of Long Island, and when he watched the "moonlit fish under the water's surface, he often envisioned their fleeting forms as beautiful mermaids," which led to the extensive waterborne photography that would culminate in his second published book, Mermaids, released in 2008 by Ditch Plains Press.  Unlike Montauk, this work was shot largely in, and through, the water.
The work celebrates the form of women who appear, like mermaids, to be very much at home underwater. Dweck captured many of the photos at the Weeki Wachee Springs, where he was initially inspired by watching "water babies" perform, frequently while costumed as literal mermaids.
One gelatin silver print from the collection sold at auction in 2009 at Christie's in London for over $17,000. The Mermaids art was then featured by Playboy under the title "Sirens' Dance", with an introduction by Christopher Sweet that described Dweck's mermaids as "lovely, aloof and bare". Photo art from Mermaids was exhibited at galleries in New York, Los Angeles, London, Belgium, Hamburg, and Tokyo.
Dweck authored a 2011 pictorial book, Habana Libre (Free Havana) about the privileged class in modern Cuba. The book includes rare interviews with the sons of Fidel Castro and of Che Guevara, and it focuses largely on the "creative culture" of Cuba. Other subjects of this book include "artists of the farandula's sophisticated and socially connected circle," such as musicians Francis de Rio and Kelvis Ochoa; painters Rene Francisco, Rachel Valdez and Carlos Quintana; dancer Yaday Ponce Toscano; and novelist Leonardo Padura.
The book was featured in The New York Times, which documents Dweck's eight return visits to the island. A review in Miami New Times notes that "it's hard to tell if [Dweck is] glamorizing the privilege or slyly exposing the hypocrisy of the myth of communist equality". Highlighting the book, a feature pictorial story, "Elit Küba", appeared in the Turkish magazine Tempo. An opinion column in El País noted how the sons of revolutionaries had undeniably broken a tacit pact with their elders, not to give aid to an American documentary of their lives; but perhaps they could not stand the constraint of the political party any longer.
New York's Staley-Wise Gallery opened an exhibit of Dweck's work -- Habana Libre and The End: Montauk, N.Y.—to coincide with the release of the Habana Libre book on Dec. 9, 2011. According to Dweck, both places have "aesthetic" similarities. However, as he discovered, both have much more in common: "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."  Dweck's exhibit at Staley-Wise ran through late January 2012.
Starting Feb. 24 and running through March 24, 2012, Dweck was the first American contemporary artist to mount a solo exhibition in Cuba since the US embargo on that country began. Dweck also "made history" with a much larger than expected turnout for the Feb. 24 opening as the museum was "expecting 300 or so guests" but instead, when Dweck arrived, he was "greeted by a crowd of about 2,000 Artists, Ambassadors, and Media outside, who weren't allowed in until he got there." 
Dweck's exhibit at Fototeca de Cuba showcased images from his book but "presented in greater scale using an unconventional paper and special printing technique that were created especially for the exhibition." Of the added touch in the exhibit, Dweck said, "I've been given the honor of being one of the first living American artists to exhibit in Cuba, I felt I had to present something additional as a show of respect and gratitude. The unique motif is meant to honor the beauty of the island's past, reflect the heat of the people and serves as a reflection of their spirit, their future, their potential."
During the exhibit's opening, Dweck announced a gift of "all 52 photographs to the Fototeca Museum and the Cuban people. The gift's value is estimated around $500,000." That same evening, Alex Castro and Camilo Guevara toured the upstairs exhibit, protected with armed bodyguards. Another of Fidel Castro's sons, Alejandro Castro, later humorously said to Dweck, "Thanks for making me famous."
Dweck is currently directing his first 90-minute feature film entitled Blunderbust, which explores and documents the culture of stock car drivers at the Riverhead Raceway in Riverhead, New York. It is scheduled for completion in March 2014.
Snoecks published a series of Dweck's work titled Sex Bombs which features photographs of nuclear and other military missiles. Dweck also produced another project that features oversized Polaroid instant camera pictures, called Giant Polaroids: Pin Up. The Polaroids were taken with a rare Polaroid 20x24 large format camera.
- The End: Montauk, N.Y., 2004, ISBN 0-8109-5008-1
- The Girls of Montauk, 2007, Playboy - (also with model Reby Sky)
- Mermaids, 2008, ISBN 978-0-9818465-0-7
- Habana Libre, 2011, ISBN 978-88-6208-184-9
- Sonya, Poles - Montauk, NY, 2002. Sold at auction in 2009 at Christie's in London for over $17,000. In March 2010, Dweck filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against a New York based clothing company, accusing them of using his Sonya, Poles photograph in their advertisements without permission. Another print then sold in 2011 for $30,000.
- Lilla - Napeague Beach, Montauk, NY, 2002. Sold at auction for £2,200.
- Dave and Pam in their Caddy - Montauk, NY, 2002. Sold at auction in 2009 at Christie's in London for over $12,000.
- Mermaid 1 - Amagansett, NY, 2005. Sold at auction in 2009 at Christie's in London for over $17,000.
- Surf's Up - Montauk, NY, 2006. Sold at auction in 2009 at Christie's in London for over $32,000.
- Mermaid 18 - Weeki Wachee, FL. Sold at auction in 2011 at Bukowskis in Stockholm for $20,657.
- February 24-March 24, 2012: Michael Dweck: Habana Libre, Fototeca de Cuba, Havana.
- December 9, 2011-January 28, 2012: Michael Dweck: The End and Habana Libre, Staley Wise Gallery. New York, NY.
- December 2, 2011-February 25, 2012: Habana Libre, Blitz Gallery. Tokyo, Japan.
- November 17-December 8, 2011: Michael Dweck: Island Life, Izzy Gallery. Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
- December 30, 2010-February 15, 2011: Michael Dweck: Giant Pin-Up Polaroids, Maruani & Noirhomme Gallery. Knokke, Belgium.*September 8-October 29, 2011: Habana Libre, MODERNISM. San Francisco, CA.
- September 16-October 25, 2010: American Mermaid, Acte 2 Galerie. Paris, France, in collaboration with Maruani & Noirhomme Gallery.
- June 24-August 28, 2010: Michael Dweck: Paradise Lost, MODERNISM. San Francisco, CA.
- January 24-March 14, 2009: Mermaids, Gallery Orchard. Nagoya, Japan.
- October 15-December 15, 2008: Mermaids, Blitz Gallery. Tokyo, Japan.
- September 19–November 10, 2008: Mermaids, Robert Morat Galerie. Hamburg, Germany.
- September 13-October 4, 2008: Michael Dweck: Mermaids, The End, and Flowers, Keszler Gallery. Southampton, NY.
- June 19-September 1, 2008: Mermaids, Staley Wise Gallery. New York, NY.
- May 15-September 1, 2008: Mermaids, Delphine Pastor Galery, Monte Carlo, Monaco in collaboration with Maruani & Noirhomme Gallery.
- March 1-April 20, 2008: Michael Dweck, Maruani & Noirhomme Gallery. Knokke, Belgium.
- November 17-December 28, 2006: 'A Surfer's Life, Nagoya, Tokyo, Japan.
- May 30-July 15, 2006: A Surfer's Life, Blitz House. Meguro-ku and Shimomeguro. Tokyo, Japan.
- April 1–29, 2006: A Surfer's Life, Gallery Orchard, Oosu, Naka-Ku, Japan.
- September 30-November 15, 2005: Three, Aoyama. Tokyo, Japan.
- September 2003: The End: Montauk, NY, Sotheby's. New York, NY.
- 1998 - Gold Lion - Cannes International Festival for Arctic Ground Squirrel
- 2000 - Advertising Excellence - AICP - Work entered into the permanent collection of the Department of Film, Museum of Modern Art, New York.
- MichaelDweck.com, official website
- Ditch Plains press, publisher of Mermaids
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