Slow Dancing: About the Artist

David Michalek takes the concept and techniques of portraiture as the starting points for the creation of compelling works, on both a large and small scale, in a range of mediums. He has been drawn in particular to projects that bring together diverse groups of people in settings ranging from galleries to public spaces, churches and community organizations to health care facilities. Born in San Francisco in 1967, Michalek earned a B.A. in English Literature from the University of California, Los Angeles, in 1990 and also studied filmmaking at New York University. He worked as an assistant to noted photographer Herb Ritts for two years, beginning in 1989. In 1991 he began his professional photographic career and worked regularly as a portrait artist for publications such as the New Yorker, Vanity Fair, Interview, and Vogue. Beginning in the mid-1990s, Michalek began experimenting with performance and installation and developing large-scale, multidimensional projects. His solo and collaborative work has been shown nationally and internationally, with recent solo exhibitions at Yale University, the Brooklyn Museum, and the Kitchen. He has collaborated with director Peter Sellars on two staged works: Kafka Fragments, presented at Carnegie Hall, and St. François d’Assise, presented at the Salzburg Festival and Paris Opera. Other film and video work for theater includes collaborations with the Tallis Scholars; John Malpede and L.A.P.D. on three works, Agents and Assets, The Skid Row Museum, and RFK in EKY; and the Brooklyn Philharmonic in a project for the Brooklyn Museum’s “Music Off the Walls” series. His critically acclaimed 14 Stations was a project created in collaboration with men and women transitioning out of homelessness, participating in the Interfaith Assembly on Homelessness and Housing at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York. It was modeled on the traditional Christian devotional rite, the Stations of the Cross, with a different man or woman assuming the role of the Christ figure in each. Michalek has been the recipient of numerous grants and fellowships, from, among others, The Franklin Furnace, The Durfee Foundation, The California State Arts Council, the Jerome Robbins Foundation, Karen-Weiss Foundation, and the Performing Arts Center of Los Angeles County (commissioning grant toward the creation of Slow Dancing). He has been an artist in residence with the World Performance Project at Yale University since the spring of 2007. He has also been on the visiting faculty of the Yale Divinity School, lecturing on religion and the arts.

Photo by Matthew Wakem