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Pérez Art Museum Miami opens first career survey devoted to the work of Dara Friedman
Total, 1997. 16mm film with optical sound Running time 12 minutes. Collection of Carlos and Rosa de la Cruz, Miami ©Dara Friedman, courtesy the artist and Gavin Brown’s enterprise, New York.

MIAMI, FLA.- Pérez Art Museum Miami is presenting Dara Friedman: Perfect Stranger, the first career survey of the work of internationally renowned, Miamibased artist Dara Friedman. The exhibition features 16 major film and video works that combine the techniques and principles of Structural Filmmaking with a strong emotional charge and an intuitive approach to subject matter. Spanning over 20 years of production, Perfect Stranger is the artist’s most comprehensive show to date; it also marks the largest exhibition of the work of a Miami-based artist by PAMM. The exhibition is on view from November 3, 2017 through March 4, 2018 in PAMM’s M.B. Fernandez Family galleries.

Friedman crafts each of her films with meticulous care, making precise choices with respect to camerawork, film stock, and editing strategy while taking into consideration every aspect of the presentation of her work in physical space, from the scale of the images to the specific qualities of the playback equipment. Yet for all of her strenuous logic and discipline, her approach remains unabashedly sensual and emotive. Bearing rich imagery and a strong emphasis on bodily experience, her films generate moments of high-pitched, cathartic intensity as well as serene, even euphoric interludes.

“The exhibition at PAMM captures the intensity that marks Dara’s films, reflecting the ways she uses this intensity to reach viewers directly and at a gut level, with the ultimate goal of encouraging and fostering empathy toward others,” commented Curator René Morales. “Dara’s work helps us to see ourselves and others with greater clarity.”

“Dara’s trajectory powerfully embodies the possibility that life as an artist in Miami is not just viable, but that the city can serve as a home base for a global artistic career,” remarked PAMM Director Franklin Sirmans. “PAMM has always considered its aspiration to support and collaborate with the local art community to be one of its core values and a central facet of its mission.”

Perfect Stranger consists of 16 major works by Friedman. The first gallery is comprised mainly of early work (pre-2001), many on 16 mm film. The gallery is completely open, allowing light and sound to leak from one piece to the other, resulting in a cacophony of intense energy. The second gallery takes the opposite approach, consisting of a series of closed, soundproofed rooms for each film, complete with seating. Each room feels like its own universe, encouraging deep immersion and focus.

Exhibition highlights include:

• Government Cut Freestyle, 1998: Part of PAMM’s permanent collection, this film shows young people taking turns jumping off a pier in South Pointe Park in Miami Beach into Government Cut, the waterway that connects Biscayne Bay to the Atlantic Ocean. The artist shot the footage so the divers’ bodies remain tightly constricted within the frame. As a result, the camera bobs and sways gently as the divers plummet through the air, each time arching over the horizon line. The film’s slow motion pacing and the steady, undulating rhythm with which the scenes unfold elicit a swooning, hypnotic effect.

• Bim Bam, 1999: In two separate 16 mm film loops, one stacked atop the other, a pair of silhouetted female figures (both the artist) repeatedly step through a threshold, slamming the door in front of or behind them. When the doors are open, they fill the frame with either yellow or blue light; when they are closed, the frame goes black. The footage was filmed with the camera turned on its side so that the figures appear at a 90-degree angle from the floor. The sound of doors slamming plays on an independent track and is left unsynchronized with the projections, either anticipating or lagging behind the action.

• Romance, 2001: Part of PAMM’s permanent collection, this work shows a succession of approximately 70 couples kissing tenderly, playfully, or with passionate abandon in slow motion in a tightly framed composition. Friedman captured the grainy footage through a zoom lens while taking long walks with her infant daughter in a public park in the Gianicolo neighborhood of Rome. Each scene focuses on the negative space between the lovers’ profiles. The artist has likened this film to a nature documentary, as clinical in tone as a study of the mating habits of birds.

• Musical, 2007–08: A total of 55 participants perform in the crowded streets, subways, diners and plazas of Midtown Manhattan while singing a song meaningful to them at full volume. The resulting soundtrack features a spectrum of musical genres, from Broadway show tunes and classic rock to a Kabuki ballad and a Michael Jackson tune, culminating in a rousing interpretation of “America, the Beautiful.” The singers are, in general, barely registered by the throngs of people surrounding them.

• Dancer, 2011: Co-produced by PAMM, this film depicts 66 people of diverse ages and backgrounds—from classically trained ballerinas to pole dancers, tap dancers, clubbers, capoeiristas, calypso dancers, yogis, belly dancers, and tumblers—as they move through Miami, using the city’s sidewalks as a stage. The musical medleys that comprise the work’s soundtrack are punctuated by the sound of city traffic and the dancers’ breathing. The camera moves alongside each person’s body like a dance partner.

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