Cindyland at SF MOMA

“The first major exhibition of Sherman’s work ever presented in San Francisco, this retrospective brings together more than 150 photographs made from the mid-1970s to the present.” – SF Moma

The huge, retrospective show of Cindy Sherman’s work at SF MOMA, fresh from the MoMA in New York, is friggin’ fantastic!  One of the very few women to have crashed thru the glass ceiling of male dominated contemporary art – Cindy’s works are in-your-face, brash and wonderfully feminist images. However they don’t overly spell it out, with guerilla girl tactics – they take their own spin, sometimes subtle, sometimes not. Perhaps a crumpled page from the personals clutched tightly in a school girl’s hand or a tampon string hanging limply from a woman’s crotch… 


Through-out her career she has taken mostly photographs of only herself – in many different roles, guises and costumes. Projecting emotions and capturing the status of women in America – sarcastic, empathetic, eerie, political and sometimes humorous. From suburban, alienated housewives to dreamy innocent teens, sad clowns to poverty stricken casualties, drag queens to butch babes, affluent society matrons to insecure aging older women, plastic surgery victims to porn stars – Cindy has pulled out all the stops.

The photographs comment on alienation, superficial identity issues, mortality, romance, gender stereotyping, women as sex objects, pornography, media exploitation, humanity’s general plight and art history. All manner of makeup, props, scenery and costumes (and recently Photoshop) are used to create one arresting work after another.



Our favorite room in the exhibition was painted all red (below) and showcased her “history portraits” (1989-90) salon style. Shots of Cindy dressed as characters from old master paintings – like Titian, Holbein and Caravaggio. Or just influenced and inspired by the masters… 

“History Portraits” – Foto: Accessible Art
Hanging the history portraits salon style was genius. The viewer can immerse himself in them in this small back gallery. Placing herself within the context of Old Masters paintings, these are some of Sherman’s finest works. Sherman is not trying to fool the viewer into believing these are real scenes or that she has “become” a particular character. We see the spot where the bald cap meets her head; we can clearly see the fake breasts and the unevenly applied bushy eyebrows on some of her characters. The works are playful but at their core about identity and how false perceptions can truly be.  - Accessible Art

Want More Cindy?
The quotes below are pulled from very informative and interesting articles…

“For Ms. Reiring the key to Ms. Sherman’s success is that she “doesn’t tell you what to think,” she said. “Her work is so rich in meaning that everyone can develop their own ideas. Everyone sees something different.”
Recently she has been thinking big, producing murals printed on a kind of contact paper. She got the idea, she said, after seeing how “a number of male artists would get invited to do a show somewhere, and they’d just fill up an entire wall of painting that is just this gigantic thing.”
She added: “I was thinking how pretentious that is. It made me realize not too many women artists think that way.” -  Carol Vogel, NY Times

“Since the series, “Untitled Film Stills” catapulted her to fame in the 1980s, Cindy Sherman has been unashamedly front and center in her art. While exploring themes as diverse as femininity, perception, history and art itself, the crux of Sherman’s endurance as an artist is her bemusing and somewhat paradoxical ability to be both a primary character in her artwork, while also using her gifts of impersonation to be endlessly malleable as both artist and subject. At times, it’s impossible to say whether she is a highly visible artist or a deeply hidden one, vanishing beneath layers of make up and her large, oblique compositions It’s a theme echoed in the names she gives, or rather withholds from her artwork: they are all “Untitled” followed by a plain gallery number.” - Thomas Coughlan, Daily Californian

The Sex Pictures series combines the gruesome qualities of fairy tales with the victim-oriented centerfold images and adds a grotesque and blatantly sexual quality. The combination is disturbing to say the least. They’re even a tad disturbing to Sherman herself: “I have this juvenile fascination with things that are repulsive. It intrigues me why certain things are repulsive. To think about why something repulses me makes me that much more interested in it.” – Utata Tribal Photography

Great photo by magneticart on Flickr
On view through October 8th, 2012 at SF MOMA Info here
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