A great deal of the art world has focused its attention on the luxury and excesses of Art Basel Miami, where the parties and celebrity sightings are just as much of a draw as the art itself — perhaps more.
There is a decidedly quieter event taking place in a London art gallery.
It doesn’t feature Miley Cyrus on a stage smoking weed and performing in a tinsel wig and nipple pasties — it’s much too cold for that in London right now; the poor girl would freeze — but it does feature the work of Mikhail Baryshnikov.
“Dancing Away” is an exhibition of Baryshnikov’s photography that opened during London’s Russian Art Week. Yes, on top of dancing, choregraphing and acting, Baryshnikov also developed a talent for picture-making. He’s actually held quite a few solo exhibitions, counts photographer Annie Leibovitz among his fans, and cites Irving Penn, Alexey Brodovitch, and Ilse Bing as influences.
He dwells in the realm he knows best — dance — and his style evokes the work of impressionist painters. Baryshnikov spent 20 years taking photographs before turning his lens toward dance the world over. His subjects include Brazilian hip-hop, Hawaiian hula and the avant-garde work of the Merce Cunningham company.
Perhaps it’s impossible to create an image of a dancer in a tutu without referencing Edgar Degas’s ballerinas, but Baryshnikov does it in a way that moves the work forward: all color and emotion and light, captured in lengthy exposures that create streaks resembling brush strokes.
“I wanted the audience to see, to be able to imagine, the movement before and after, not just the frozen moment,” Baryshnikov said in a statement.
Another image, “Untitled #20,” recalls the fluidity and movement of Henri Matisse’s “Dance.” An image of a flamenco dancer in Madrid became his “little nod to Picasso,” he told the Guardian’s Liz Hoggard.
Museum-goers can catch “Dancing Away” at the Contini through the end of January.