Exhibition closes June 11, 2012
Museum of Modern Art
11 West 53rd Street between 5th and 6th Avenues
Admission: $25; free with New School student ID
The way that the chameleon-like artist, Cindy Sherman, whose works are currently on display in a retrospective at the MoMA, can so convincingly alter herself into a completely different identity in each of her works has been the source of intrigue and admiration ever since she started doing her self-photographed works in the 1970s.
So, how does she do it? Is it all in the eyebrows? Perhaps. It is that, and the costuming, the lighting and just that expression she is able to capture, along with the composition of the photo or the various props. But Sherman inserts an added wile, bit of humor, and subtle social commentary in each of her creations, which has run cohesively through her work in over the past thirty years.
The museum has made great use of the outside walls surroundings the entryways to the main gallery. There, they have stuck on five giant-size photographs of Sherman in various characters that welcome visitors and prime them for the variety of disguises the artist puts herself in. In these particular works, created in 2010, Sherman adds a modern tweak by employing a bit of Photoshop to further distort and change her appearance into the assorted personas. Each, in a way, summarizes the individuals she has become and documented over the past decades, such as the clown, the aristocratic lady, or an historical art figure.
Inside, the retrospective is split into various sections of work, ranging from society portraits depicting frail rich women to grotesque photos on various themes like AIDS and censorship from the 1980s to bizarre and wicked clown-like characters. A standout among these galleries is “Untitled Film Stills” (1977-80) series, a collection of works that broke ground for Sherman as a young artist. Shot in black and white in a brooding manner, Sherman is the actress, posing as a myriad of cinematic damsels in distress, capturing a certain air of mystery in each shot. None are taken from an actual film, but each pose beautifully captures a moment that one could conceivably find in a 1950s B-movie, with the right amount of mascara-stained tears or just the right shrug of the shoulders. These stills well represent her collective works’ ability to reinforce the very stereotypes or identities she is trying to mimic.
Image: Cindy Sherman. Untitled Film Still #21. 1978. Gelatin silver print, 7 1/2 x 9 1/2″ (19.1 x 24.1 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Horace W. Goldsmith Fund through Robert B. Menschel © 2012 Cindy Sherman