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Cindy Sherman Hardcover – March 13, 2007
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offers the most comprehensive examination of her persona-switching photographs to date offers the most comprehensive examination of her persona-switching photographs to date offers" the most comprehensive examination of her persona-switching photographs to date" -- Oct06 HINT MAGAZINE
About the Author
Régis Durand, art critic and director of the Jeu de Paume and of the Centre National de la Photographie in Paris, has written and contributed to numerous books on art and photography, including Orlan: Carnal Art (Flammarion, 2004). Carole-Anne Tyler, a Brown University graduate, is associate professor of English and associate director of the Center for Ideas and Society at University of California, Riverside. She has written numerous books and essays on gender and sexuality, literary theory, and film and visual culture. Jean-Pierre Criqui, art critic and historian, is editor in chief of Les Cahiers du musée national d'art moderne (Paris).
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It's taken me several months to digest her works. This is heavy stuff, folks, make no mistake about it. What I struggled most with was trying to find a theme among the successive phases represented in Sherman's art.
In the end, I think I figured it out. Her art is really about the exploration of identity. In the process, she comments about feminism, overt and hidden sexuality, pornography, advertising, contemporary and classic art, but in the end, how all this onslaught of imagery affects many people's self image.
Sherman is probably best known for her "Film Stills" series from the 70s, in which she pioneered the technique of being a photographer and subject at the same time. She could have stopped there, and probably been a successful artist. In that series, she made up sets that looked like 50s and 60s movie stills. Of course, none of these movies existed.
In the 80s, her photographs became more macabre, exploring death, the despair of lost innocence, and the ominous aspects of sex and the subconscious.
Shortly after this timeframe, she did the "Fashion" series, which really mocks fashion, showing how fashion can be debasing to women, much like pornography; probably even exploring the relationship between fashion and pornography. Many people are accepting and slaves of fashion, yet abhor porn, yet Sherman shows how the two are inextricably related.
In her next phase, Sherman explores the symbolism that old master paintings exerts on modern art, news photography, and advertising, often apparently unintentionally, which raises the point that we're all connected to the collective consciousness as Jung pointed out.
By the mid 90s, Sherman's photography had included grotesque, ripped apart dolls, humans mixed with dolls, gaping pornographic dolls, composite dolls put together from different dolls, mannequins. This phase segued into surrealism, Daliesque imagery made from contorted body parts and more mannequins. This was followed by the "masks" phase, which in turn morphed into the "Hollywood Hamptons" series. Here, one can probably see best what Cindy Sherman is trying to say. While each of the characters she embodies in this series looks bizarre, we've all seen people like this every day. They remind me of Tammy Fay Baker....grotesque and exaggerated makeup. Who are you Tammy Fay? Who are you Cindy Sherman?
Sherman's most recent series is the clowns, which, in hindsight, even though drastically different from each previous phase, makes perfect sense. After all, nobody knows who's really under the clown mask. Many times, not even the clown herself.
Not to be missed if you're into art that explores the nature of consciousness.
As Amazon will tell you, people who buy Sherman will most likely also buy Diane Arbus. Both are "edgy," and very original. They are compelling. Literally. Instead of the quick glance, their photographs can be hypnotic. Arbus made a point of befriending, and photographing "the weird people," those at the margins, who are so often ignored and neglected by others. Sherman "burst on the art world scene" to borrow a little lingo, a decade or so after Arbus. She dispensed with the other people entirely, and the laborious efforts to befriend and pose them. She only photographed herself! And that is the first "hook." You can look at photograph after photograph, examine it carefully, and be amazed that this is the same person. Yes. She truly does have an incredible range of costumes, venues, and facial expressions. It is not all humanity, but the range covers so much that is both female and Western society. Can she compose a given picture in an hour or two... or does the entire process take a couple of weeks? I'd love to know. She certainly is an artist who masters the details in each picture.
I prefer the black and white photographs at the beginning of the book. In #12 she wears a black evening dress, with the "mandatory" accoutrement of a single strand of pearls, and an expression of leery concern. In #16 she is obviously late, quickly leaving a substantial house, with her headscarf on. And in #22 she wears an apron, utility heels and stockings, with a priceless backdrop of an old filthy, scuffed up door. #30 has been reprinted on postcards, the young woman, in a plaid shirt, with a suitcase on the berm, standing on the side of the open road. The color photographs, particularly those inspired by horror films or decay and death, I found less compelling, though the one on the cover remains riveting.
I first saw her work displayed when I was in NYC, believe it was 1987, and almost certainly it was in the Whitney, though it could have been the MOMA. And that is where I purchased this book. The book contains brief, three page bios by Peter Schjeldahl and Lisa Phillips, and a suitable index. The viewer is left to his / her own devices on what to make of each picture, no doubt, much as Sherman intended. And I suspect it is also a "movable feast" of interpretations, thanks to contrasting ambiguities. Arbus is no longer with us, leaving by her own hand. Sherman still is, and I say bravo for her vision, which will hopefully be able to continue to transcend the darker images. This is a good 5-star introduction to an amazingly creative and unique mind.