New York

Dara Friedman

Gavin Brown's enterprise | 620 Greenwich Street

The bell tolling at the outset of Tigertail, 2007, Dara Friedman’s new 16-mm film, immediately calls to mind Toll, 2002, in which film footage was projected onto a drywall campanile she erected in the exhibition space. The two works otherwise could not be more different. In the rigorous earlier installation, three swinging clappers were projected more or less where they would appear in an actual bell tower, an alignment of form and content that speaks to the filmmaker’s structuralist roots. The mournful peal proves incongruous, however, within the context of the newer, sun-dappled, and seemingly casual “home movie of sorts” (to quote Friedman’s open letter–cum–press release).

Tigertail is a thirteen-minute paean to bohemian rhapsody: Barefoot girls run through gardens and swing beneath sheltering trees; a shirtless long-haired man (Friedman’s husband, artist Mark Handforth) rests on a low stone wall and chugs from a water bottle; peacocks wander through the forest; and flowers and foliage proliferate. There is only one ambiguous moment: a split-second shot of a girl’s feet, seen from below, strangely lifting off the ground, as if she were being strung up. After ten minutes, I half expected someone to slice open ripe fruit and let the juice run down their arm.

Given Friedman’s track record of creating formally uncompromising, innovative films—including the disquieting two-screen he-said-she-said of Sunset Island, 2005, shown at The Kitchen that year—one assumes she is familiar with avant-garde precedents for the kind of reverie Tigertail appears to be. Some of Stan Brakhage’s home movie–like 16-mm works and beat filmmaker Robert Nelson’s creations come to mind, to say nothing of Anna Gaskell’s more recent staged photographic tableaux. Perhaps Friedman’s film is strewn with formal nods to these and other works. She describes the film frame’s rectangle as “our cosmic order,” a way of sharpening attention and bestowing value upon what passes over it. But despite its bucolic charm, Tigertail still feels curiously purposeless, leaving one to hope this family foray is no more than a brief digression.

A number of two-dimensional works and sculptures were also included in the show. Faust Haus and Annuit Coeptis (Brass Door), both 2007, are nearly life-size photographs of (slightly ajar) doors mounted on sintra and aluminum. Vertical Smile, 2004/2007, is a seven-foot-tall image of a man’s mouth, turned sideways and leaned against the wall, initially exhibited at the Wrong Gallery (itself no more than a doorway) in 2004; the small aperture between the man’s lips catches the viewer’s reflection. Lady, 2007, is a freestanding, five-foot-tall keyhole roughly excised from a door—spray paint, presumably indicating where to cut, is still visible around the edges on one side. Also on view was a pair of small-scale collages featuring an image of a girl’s eye pressed against a keyhole cut from a piece of cardboard, and two frankly lamentable canvases depicting brick and cinder-block walls.

Taken together, these works form a coherent if none too subtle statement about interiority, the relationship between the body and architectural spaces, and voyeurism; individually they suggest Friedman would do well to stick with making films and videos. Tigertail, seen in this context, can perhaps be interpreted as a public revelation of private lives. But Romance, 2001, which consists of shaky footage of lovers kissing in parks in Rome and was also included in her last show at this gallery, did something similar with far greater economy.

Brian Sholis