This important exhibition explores the development of Cindy Sherman’s work from the beginning of her career in the mid-1970s to the present day. The first retrospective of this internationally acclaimed artist’s work in Canada for 20 years, it includes selections from each of her major series, including new and rarely seen works. Widely regarded as one of the world’s leading contemporary artists, Sherman manipulates her own appearance by deploying material inspired by a range of cultural sources, including film, advertising and fashion. For almost 50 years, she has consistently explored the tension between identity and persona through the creation of characters that she assumes in each of the photographs.
Cindy Sherman includes the groundbreaking series Untitled Film Stills (1977–80), shown in its entirety. The complete series has only been displayed together once before at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 2012. Comprising 70 images, the work was the artist’s first major artistic statement and defined her approach in the decades to come. With Sherman herself as model, wearing a range of costumes and hairstyles, these black and white images captured the look of 1950s and ’60s Hollywood, film noir, B-movies and European art-house films.
During the mid-1980s and throughout the 1990s, Sherman pushed the codes of representation to a breaking point, utilizing increasingly elaborate makeup, costumes, props and prosthetics to create surprising pictures that intentionally challenged common conventions of viewing and consumption. Sherman’s History Portraits (1988–90) and Sex Pictures (1992), for example, speak to the conventions of historical portraiture and pornography and to the artifice and desire that accompany our interaction with those well-known picture genres.
Since the early 2000s, Sherman has once again turned her focus to the representation of women in film, fashion and society. Her carefully calculated pictures seem to be grounded in mockery and ridicule, yet they are also surprisingly poignant images of aging, disappointment and despair. This contradiction is at the heart of Sherman’s oeuvre.
Please note that a small section of this exhibition includes images that may not be suitable for some visitors. Discretion is advised.
Organized by the National Portrait Gallery, London in collaboration with the Vancouver Art Gallery
Artworkers Retirement Society
Sheahan and Gerald McGavin
Published by the National Portrait Gallery, 2019
Hardcover, 256 pages
Illustrations: approx. 250 (colour and black and white)
Authors: Paul Moorhouse and Raf Simons
Editor: Amelia Collins
Contributors: Nicholas Cullinan (Director’s Foreword); Erika Balsom (In the Company of Images: Untitled Film Stills); Magda Keaney (Cindy Sherman’s Fashion Pictures) and Rochelle Steiner (The Digital Divide)