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BAMPFA presents first solo museum exhibition by acclaimed Bay Area photographer Erica Deeman
Erica Deeman.

BERKELEY, CA.- The University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA) is presenting the first solo museum exhibition of works by Erica Deeman, a San Francisco-based photographer whose images explore the subtleties of black female identity. Erica Deeman: Silhouettes is the first comprehensive presentation to date of Deeman’s Silhouettes series, composed of thirty large-scale portraits of women from the African diaspora. Organized by BAMPFA Director and Chief Curator Lawrence Rinder, the exhibition is on view from March 8 through June 11, 2017.

Depicted in profile against a stark white background, Deeman’s subjects initially appear as monochromatic silhouettes. These images are actually color photographs, however, and their subtle gradations of color and form emerge upon closer viewing. The compositions recall the pseudoscientific practice of physiognomy—which was once widely believed to yield insights into subjects’ character traits based on their facial features—to engage viewers in a dialogue about the relationship between identity and visual representation. At the same time, the works’ conscious reference to nineteenth-century silhouette portraiture—which rarely depicted women of color—invites contemplation about issues of race, gender, and historical memory.

An artist of Jamaican-British ancestry who grew up in Nottingham, England, Deeman relocated to the Bay Area four years ago to pursue a career in fine art photography. She created the Silhouettes series over the course of nine months in 2013 as a student at San Francisco’s Academy of Art University, approaching strangers on the street and online to pose for the project. The works were included in the acclaimed 2016 group exhibition Collected at Pier 24 Photography. An exhibition of Deeman’s companion series Brown—which features portraits of men from the African diaspora—will be on view at Anthony Meier Fine Arts from March 24 through April 28.

“Erica Deeman is one of the Bay Area’s most exciting fine art photographers, whose work displays a deep sense of history and an attentiveness to contemporary questions of representation and identity,” said Rinder. “By mounting the first comprehensive presentation of Erica’s Silhouettes series, we look forward to advancing the growing recognition of this exceptional local artist among national and international audiences.”

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