“LA LUCHA” Santiago de Cuba


The Robin Rice Gallery announces “La Lucha”, a solo exhibition of photography by Laurence Salzmann The opening reception will be held November 9th, 2011. The show runs through December 18th, 2011.

Laurence Salzmann’s first solo show at the Robin Rice Gallery depicts the gritty world of wrestling in the city of Santiago de Cuba. The word “La Lucha” means both wrestling and struggle in Cuban Spanish. Here the dual meaning refers equally to the young wrestlers’ physical struggle and the Cuban people’s fight to survive in an economically and politically oppressed culture. Both rely on pride, ingenuity and an indomitable spirit as they strive to gain respect on the global stage.

Salzmann’s photographs reflect over a decade long passion that began on a trip to Santiago de Cuba to improve relations between our two countries. While there, Salzmann stumbled upon a gym where young boys aged 8-18 learn Greco-Roman style wrestling. Once home he could not get the silhouetted forms of young athletes in training out of his head.

This classical series of eighteen photographs, ranging in size from 11″ x 14″ to   20″ x  24″ are silver gelatin prints. Using his Hasselblad, Salzmann’s shots are un-posed and almost voyeuristic, revealing an intimate and universal portrait of human resilience. While Salzmann’s work is rooted in the social-documentary tradition, the exquisitely printed images tell a narrative of personal discovery that appeals to all ages and cultures. Taking early inspiration from American photographic greats such as Walker Evans and Paul Strand, Salzmann’s method is to create a relationship whereby the subjects feel comfortable with his presence.

In the invitational image, “Ascending”, we see four boys train using their only resources, their sinewy bodies and the primitive gym’s concrete stairs. Each boy grips the ankles of another, wheelbarrow style, as they climb the steps on their hands. The slanted staircase, the triangulated shapes of the boy’s limbs intertwined, and the brown bodies against the stark white wall create an arresting image that goes beyond its documentary origin to artistry. Viewed from afar it recalls the ancient Greek brush in red-figure technique used to decorate fine pottery.

In the image, “Jump of the Tiger”, a young man vaults across the back of another. The intense physicality of the wrestler’s movement is softened by the sway and grace of the body caught in air, almost dance-like in its arc.

Salzmann’s “La Lucha” photographs are complemented, both in this exhibit and the photographic book of the same name, by the expressive paintings of Cuban artist Luis El Estudiante. In ““Lucha con un Cocodrilo”, the artist portrays a wrestler standing triumphant over a crocodile, a wink in his eye. The painting reflects the Cuban attitude that makes light of the difficulty they encounter.

A photographer and filmmaker since the early 1960’s, Salzmann’s projects document the lives of little known groups in America and abroad and are informed by his background in anthropology. His awards include a Pew Fellowship, a Fulbright Grant, and artist’s residencies at Blue Mountain Center in New York State and Mojácar, Spain (Fundación Valparaíso). Originally exhibited as part of the Festival Cubano in Philadelphia, Salzmann’s work can also be found in the collections of the Philadelphia Museum of Art; Israel Museum, Jerusalem; Museum of Photographic Arts, San Diego; Lehigh University; Haverford, Bryn Mawr and Smith Colleges; The Jewish Museum, New York; Corcoran Gallery, Washington; International Center of Photography, New York; Bibliothèque National, Paris; and the High Museum of Art, Atlanta and in many private collections.

To view the exhibition, please visit