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Michals, Duane

Biography

American, b. 1932; lives and works in New York

Details

Using photography's innate realism against itself, Duane Michals makes staged pictures of real encounters, with people enacting invented scenarios. These sequences of images, generally with handwritten captions underneath, relate fictional narratives that recreate emotions and fantasies, each one a small morality play that engages one of Michals's favored themes: love, death, spirituality, and sexual identity. Michals began to make these sequential, multi-part photographs in the 1960s, often inscribing his small prints with poetic statements, and collecting them in published books. 

One of his most poignant works, The Violent Act, comes from the book Real Dreams, in which Michals says, "None of my photographs would have existed without my inventing them. These are not accidental encounters, witnessed on the street." The Violent Act is an enigmatic encounter, a fight staged by two naked men, in frozen poses that appear like a sequence of film stills or stop-motion frames from Eadweard Muybridge's photographic studies. But in place of Muybridge's rigorous objectivity, The Violent Act promotes a mysterious and menacing atmosphere, emphasized by the blurred figures, seedy setting, and homoerotic violence. With the disappearance of the victim from the final frame, the narrative is complete, but the motives are all the more mysterious.

Artworks by Michals, Duane

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