ART: The Many, Many Faces of Cindy Sherman

NOTE: All Cindy Sherman exhibit photos courtesy of the artist and Metro Pictures, and The Museum of Modern Art.


“Once I’m set up, the camera starts clicking, then I just start to move and watch how I move in the mirror,” Sherman says in the exhibition catalogue, ‘Cindy Sherman,’ by Eva Respini, Associate Curator of Photography at the Museum of Modern Art. “It’s not like I’m method acting or anything. I don’t feel that I am that person … there’s this distance,” Sherman says. “The image in the mirror becomes her _ the image the camera gets on the film. And the one thing I’ve always known is that the camera lies.”


Take the escalator to the sixth floor Cindy Sherman retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art (Feb. 26-June 11). Once there, turn around slowly to absorb what appears before you _ a towering 2010 photographic mural on view for the first time in the U.S. Much of this exhibit presents visitors with ample opportunity to suspend reality and venture deep into the mind of Sherman, considered one of the most important and influential artists of our time. The American photographer, throughout her career since the 1970s, focuses the camera on herself and shoots alone in her studio. Sherman casts herself in various roles as she experiments with the image of women in society and the media.

According to MoMA, the exhibition brings together 171 key photographs from the artist’s significant series—including the complete “Untitled Film Stills” (1977–80), the critically acclaimed centerfolds (1981), and the celebrated history portraits (1988–90)—plus examples from all of her most important bodies of work, ranging from her fashion photography of the early 1980s to the breakthrough sex pictures of 1992 to her 2003–04 clowns and monumental society portraits from 2008. Her works at MoMA represent chromogenic color prints, gelatin silver prints and hand-colored gelatin silver prints.

It is clear Sherman likes to play with recurring themes: cinema and performance; the macabre and the grotesque; myth, carnival and fairy tales; gender and class identity. As a young woman studying in Buffalo, she was already exploring and pushing visual boundaries. In one series, she photographs herself in front of rear-screen projections of various cityscapes and landscapes. Another series of “Untitled” photos (1980s-90s) places attention on censorship in the arts and the AIDS epidemic.


The 2008 Society portraits anchor the exhibition’s finale, and encapsulate the remarkable physical and emotional transformations Sherman undergoes for her art. She understands that, perhaps now more than ever, we are all conditioned by cinema and other media continually jockeying for our undivided attention.



Cindy Sherman interactive photo gallery:

Cindy Sherman exhibit slide show (video):

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