Cindy Sherman is known for transforming herself for the camera and photographing herself in many guises. She has been working as an artist for six decades and The Broad in LA is now showing a comprehensive exhibition of her work, open until 2 October 2016.
The exhibition called Cindy Sherman: Imitation of Life, is the first special exhibition organised by The Broad since it opened. The exhibition fills The Broad’s first floor galleries and is showing 127 stunning photographs by Sherman.
Cindy Sherman is a photographer, stylist, model, makeup artist, hair stylist and director. She creates female personas that are seen in the media, society, TV and film and her work often raises questions of identity and the role of women in society. She explores the nature of the gaze and the subject and plays with the dynamic between the two as she is both audience and subject, director and muse. Cindy Sherman represents women from history as well as icons from film, and stereotypes of women in roles both on screen and in society.
The exhibition will feature a variety of Sherman’s work.
“Cindy Sherman’s work has been a touchstone for the Broad collection since Eli and Edye Broad first encountered it in 1982, and Cindy is the only artist in the collection whose work we’ve acquired so deeply and regularly, for more than 30 years. There are 127 Cindy Sherman photographs in the Broad collection, the largest holding of her work in the world, and inaugurating our special exhibitions with an artist whose work sparked the Broads’ deep commitment to contemporary art could not be more appropriate for us” said Joanne Heyler, founding director of The Broad.
Sherman first rose to fame with a series Untitled Film Stills (1977-1980) which will appear in the exhibition. The series contain black and white photographs where Sherman poses in a variety of settings styled to look like the 1950s and 1960s. The photos are designed to look like stills from a film, criticising the way women are portrayed and the roles they are given in film and society. Each image creates a kind of cliché, but by leaving the series untitled there is a sense of ambiguity.
The exhibition will also be showing the film that she made called Office Killer. Criticised for having a poor plot, this horror film features Molly Ringwald and Jeanne Tripplehorn. It is about an office worker who starts killing her colleagues and hiding their bodies in her basement. Although unsuccessful, it is over the top and grotesque and typically Sherman.
Cindy Sherman has long been taking selfies before they became the next big thing and celebrating her work in this exhibition, Imitation of Life, highlights that Sherman was before her time. The photographs that Sherman has shown, have become bigger and bigger as time passes. Her first series Untitled film stills were all 8.5 by 12 inches. They gradually got bigger, and Imitation of Life shows wall length photographs of the artist. However when Sherman takes her selfies they are not to record an image of herself, unlike the modern day selfie.
“I use myself the way I would use a mannequin. [My photos are] not autobiographical. They’re not fantasies of mine. I like to work completely alone, so instead of using models I use myself. I’m under so many layers of makeup that I’m trying to obliterate myself in the images. I’m not revealing anything”
The floor to ceiling photographs, both photographs of Sherman, with a backdrop that was actually a photograph itself. These enormous images encourage visitors to the exhibition to take selfies in front of the photographs. In fact this was the intention of Sherman. Does this mean the artist is collaborating with her audience to create a selfie that walks out the door with the visitor? Perhaps this is her way of exploring selfie culture.
Cindy Sherman has been described as a feminist, post structuralist, post modernist and many other titles. However she does not define herself with these labels.
Sherman creates the image almost without intention and relies of the viewer and critic to interpret their views, and construct the relationship between viewer and image.
“I don’t think Sherman is a feminist artist or a non-feminist artist. I don’t think it really matters if she has set out to be either” said Judith Williamson, the author of Images of Women.
Cindy Sherman: Imitation of Life is published by Prestel. Sherman’s exhibition at Los Angeles’ The Broad is on until 2 October 2016