WOMEN SHAPING HISTORY
Photography Innovator Cindy Sherman
All of us fuss about our hair, makeup, hemlines, and home décor. But few are as compelling as artist Cindy Sherman. In her 170-work retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art, she astonishes with unforgettable images. Sherman, aided by wigs, makeup techniques, props, masks, and occasionally prosthetic body parts, uses herself to express various stereotypes: B-movie queens, Palm Beach snobs: fashion victims, and old masterpieces. What is she saying about women by playing these multiple roles? She once explained her work as feminist or feminist influenced. She works alone so everything she puts on canvas is her deliberate choice.
Sherman, who was born in New Jersey in 1954 and grew up on Long Island, is rightly lauded by MoMA as “the unchallenged cornerstone of postmodern photography.” So, this retrospective is a deserved tribute to her work and shows how she has produced unique works that surprise year-after-year. In their artistry, Sherman’s photographs trick us into identifying with the character she portrays and their painstakingly recreated worlds she creates until you make them part of your life, not hers.
Curated by Eva Respini with Lucy Gallun, the Sherman MoMA story is told in galleries devoted to individual subjects, starting with “Untitled Film Stills” and ending with the recent searing society portraits of women of a certain age. Her huge gaudy clown portraits blaze from walls in three galleries. Sherman’s most recent works at the show’s entrance are outsized murals of the artist without make-up and in badly tailored costumes.
In my favorite gallery” History Paintings” there’s Sherman as playful Bacchus as painted by Caravaggio. The very last gallery, “Doll Clothes” is charming. Created with looped animation, here paper doll Cindy, flips through various fashions until she decides on the outfit she dons. (MOMA, 11 W. 53rd St. 212-708-9400)
Also, women, the subject of this Education Update issue, are in glorious fashions dancing with male companions in a beautiful, small Renoir Show at the Frick. But hurry. They waltz away May 13. (Frick 1 East 70th St. 212-288-0700) #