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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Cindy Sherman at MoMA

A few weeks ago, I'd never even heard of Cindy Sherman. Then both of my weekly magazines, Time and New York, published articles on the new retrospective of her work at MoMA. I was intrigued! Kurt and I decided to get some culture on Saturday and check it out.

This is one of the opening images, from her "society" series...
Basically, she's been taking photos of herself since the 70s. But they're not considered self-portraits Here's how the exhibit explains it:
Masquerading as a myriad of characters, Cindy Sherman (American, born 1954) invents personas and tableaus that examine the construction of identity, the nature of representation, and the artifice of photography. To create her images, she assumes the multiple roles of photographer, model, makeup artist, hairdresser, and stylist. Whether portraying a career girl, a blond bombshell, a fashion victim. A clown, or a society lady of a certain age, for over thirty-five years this relentlessly adventurous artist has created an eloquent and provocative work that resonates deeply in our visual culture.

Yes, I was so fascinated by that, I stood in the gallery and typed the whole paragraph on my BlackBerry!

Anyway, after an opening room which included images like the above and this one, which was one of my favorites...
...the exhibit progresses more or less chronologically, starting with her Film Stills from 1977-1980. Fun fact: some of these were done "guerilla style"...she would quickly shoot them at various sites. But most of her career since then has been done in studio. (Second fun fact: Madonna sponsored the 1997 MoMA exhibition of the film stills, and Sherman has been called "the original Lady Gaga.")
After the film stills came the Centerfolds, which were so controversial that they were not run by the magazine that commissioned them because of feminist concerns about the alleged "victimization" of the images.
There was also a room of her history portraits (1988-90), where she played off of the classic Old Master concepts...but with a lot of prosthetics...
There was some fashion work in the early 80s...she would play around with images of haute couture unlike anything you'd see on a runway...
And then the "breakthrough sex pictures" in the early 90s...
I can hear my mom saying, "Well, that's enough of that!" So, you'll just have to see more of those for yourself...there were some interesting ones with what looked like chewed-up chocolate and vomit.

The curatorial notes said Sherman's work explores the "obsession with class, status and youth at the heart of culture today...one series is a sort of wall of really awful Glamour Shots that was shown in Hollywood one year during the Oscars. It looks at "the cycle of desire and failed ambition that permeates Hollywood."


Finally, there were the "monumental" 2008 society portraits, ironically taken before the crash. They are a sort of eerie look at boom time success, though this was one of my favorites...it reminded me of a Madoff-type wife who's just found out they're losing it all. The woman's teeth are crooked, which made me think of people who didn't grow up with money and were too old to wear braces by the time they could afford them...

As you can tell, I loved the exhibit. One of the notes called fashion "a daily form of masquerade that communicates culture, gernder and class." I'd never thought of it in that way, but it's true. We all put on a certain layer of artifice each morning in an attempt to determine how we'll be seen or perceived...and we all make judgements and assumptions about others based on what we see and assume...

Fascinating!

3 comments:

Mandy said...

This looks like a really cool (if sometimes kind of creepy) exhibit! Thanks for sharing!

Whitney said...

Did you catch last night's (4/1/12) 60 minutes? She was mentioned.

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