The nine months that Nickless spent photographing the MRR soldiers convey a much broader picture of the times. By the end of the 1960s, such CIA-funded military raids on Cuba were a thing of the past; but images of swift boats and M16s would become ubiquitous in coverage of the Vietnam War.
Artime died in 1977, not having lived to see his ultimate dream of a deposed Castro, like so many of his fellow compatriots, and those who are still waiting. “Embedded” would be a way journalists and photographers cover all battles, particularly after the beginning of the Iraq War. There could be no better place to exhibit this historical survey than in the Freedom Tower.
While Nickless caught human beings preparing for battle, no fire fights are actually depicted – the main action for the most part is off to the side. Baryshnikov’s colorful photography, on the other hand, not only captures dancers in the midst of movement, they often seem to still be moving. This is stunningly beautiful, at times abstract imagery that nonetheless documents a wide variety of dance styles from 2006 to 2011.
Baryshnikov is of course one of the most well-known and well-regarded dancers of all time, but he was not a practicing photographer. Yet when he decided to focus a lens on his own field, he managed to translate his remarkable skills to this form of art with amazing success. Dance in its essence is hard to convert accurately to a still medium. Although painters, sculptors and photographers have depicted dancers through the ages, capturing live performance has never been easy, and the results rarely engaging. Baryshnikov has made them so.
The series of 28 photographs on the second floor of Gary Nader’s sprawling Wynwood space in an exhibit titled “Dance This Way” are almost as captivating as the dances themselves must have been, when Baryshnikov caught tango, contemporary, ballet and folk dancers in mid twirl, feet inches from the floor in a leap, hips starting to swivel. But that’s not the real achievement here -- these do not feel like stills of movement, they seem to continue to follow and communicate the motions.
The best examples of this are Baryshnikov’s photographs of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, the experimental contemporary dance troupe founded by another pioneering choreographer, Merce Cunningham. The colors from the outfits swirl around in these – bright yellows jump out – and add to the blurred figures in perpetual motion, expressing the heart of the dance. Feet, legs and torsos lose their definitions, yet not their positions in the performance, or in the frame. The moment – or moments -- captured in Cunningham’s “CRWDSPCR” is the standout in the exhibit.
But Baryshnikov knew Cunningham’s work well, having performed it himself. What’s maybe more amazing is the way he has brought to life dances further from his roots. Like “Dancing the Bachata in the Dominican Republic,” where a duo in the foreground can’t seem to stop their rhythmic movements, while psychedelic green lights flash across the floor. Again, nothing is static.
There is a shot of several Hula dancers, whose yellow, feathered skirts blend together in a riot of swirls. Their bodies and hair are so similar it suggests a repetition of the same person, in stop-motion fashion, but it is a photograph of a live performance. Like the day-in-the-life photos that Nickless shot, nothing is posed here. It’s the real deal.