Cindy Sherman at MoMA
I should absolutely start by saying that I love Cindy Sherman’s work. Her black and white film stills from the 70s are some of the smartest pieces I have seen. And her entire oeuvre examines identity in a way no other artist has. But after being away from NYC and visiting the show subsequent to reading reviews (something I try to avoid), I have to say that I was disappointed. There were a number of great things about the show: the film stills , the room of history portraits, seeing all of her work together in one space allowed viewers to appreciate what she has accomplished over the years. But overall, I felt as if I had seen everything before. If you have seen one Cindy Sherman from a particular series, is it absolutely necessary to see 10 more? Sure, if you have the time and stamina. But if one is visiting NYC, there are so many other things worth seeing that will be new and fresh. However…
I am including images from the works that I responded to. One of the best parts of this exhibition is seeing so many of the black and white film stills from the late 70s/early 80s hung together. I thought I had seen all of them, and while I did recognize many, there were a lot I had never seen before. And hung together, they were marvelous!
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.
In the final two galleries we see Sherman’s most recent photographs of herself as members of the upper class–the 1%. Her portrayal of these overly-tanned divas with sagging skin is spot on, making us almost feel sorry for them for their pitiful vanity.
It’s funny, one of the pieces of art I have always wanted to own for my collection is a portrait of Cindy Sherman by the photographer, Martin Schoeller. It is a close up of her face, little makeup, freckles, and no costumes; this is as close to the artist as a person as we will ever get. We normally see the quiet Sherman dressed up as someone else. Seeing her exposed and vulnerable held great appeal for me. It’s as if those eyes have really lived all of the moments she has created in her art.
Cindy Sherman will be on view at the Museum of Modern Art New York through June 11, 2012.