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Monday, 22 October 2012

Cindy Sherman



What is there to say about queen bee Cindy Sherman? For 30 years she has starred in all of her photographs and yet they reveal nothing about her. For they are anything but self-portraits. Rather, her collection of pictures toss a molotov cocktail through the stained-glass window of photographic truth.

We recently happened upon this rare interview with her, produced by Art21. In it she reveals how dressing up in character began as a kind of performance and evolved into her earliest photographic series such as Bus Riders (1976), Untitled Film Stills (1977-80), and the untitled rear screen projections (1980).

Through her myriad of guises, metamorphosing from a busty Marilyn Monroe to a cowgirl to a forlorn clown, she examines issues of gender, identity and power, and explores how photography is complicit in these contructions. Often with the simplest of means - a camera, a wig, makeup, location, an outfit - but always freighted with self-reflexive irony, Sherman chosen heroines pursue this with overt anarchy energy presenting ambiguous but memorable characters that suggest complex social and cultural realities lived out beyond the frame. Having developed an aesthetic and artistic language of their own, they interrogate public images, from kitsch (film stills and centerfolds) to art history (Old Masters and Surrealism) to green-screen technology and the latest advances in digital photography.

But of course that’s not the only advance she has made. Sherman’s Untitled #96 from 1981 - more commonly referred to as 'Orange Sweater' - passed all records for photography, and was sold for $3.89 million in Spring this year. According to Art Info, the buyer was New York dealer Philippe Segalot, and the underbidder was Per Skarstedt, also a New York dealer. Christie's confirmed that this was a record for a photograph at auction, previously held by Andreas Gursky’s 99 Cent II Diptychon, which fetched $3.35 million in 2006. Sherman recently had another high profile sale, with her work Untitled #153, from 1985 reaching $2.7 million in late 2010. Needless to say, the price of a photograph should never be the measure of value but nobody can deny her stature and influence on the medium, the esteem with which she is held by critics and curators, and the prestigious collections that contain her work.

Below is another video, this time comprising a panel discussion on the occasion of her retrospective survey at MoMA that finished back in June. It features artists, working in a variety of mediums, as they consider Cindy Sherman's influence on contemporary art practice. Panelists include George Condo, Kalup Linzy, Elizabeth Peyton, and Collier Schorr. It is moderated by exhibition organiser Eva Respini, Associate Curator, Department of Photography, MoMA.