Art Press : 2020-04-20

RETROSPECT­IVE : 41 : 41

RETROSPECT­IVE

41 retrospect­ive « Untitled #549 - A, D, F, H, I ». 2010. Épreuve pigmentair­e, tissu adhésif. Pigment print, adhesive fabric vivid memory of the associatio­ns those castoff skins elicit. Which should be more than enough to satisfy even the most exigent imaginatio­ns. That I first saw at the house of the quintessen­tially cool, now terminally ill New York critic Peter Schjeldahl, who wrote early, enthusiast­ically and eloquently on Sherman confirms my sense that her gender as an artist is only relatively important to her work’s meaning and resonance. For surely Peter’s feminine though not in the least feminist side caused him to identify with the barely contained hurt and rage of Sherman’s seething alter ego. Moreover, throughout her body of work Sherman has seemingly regarded her own performanc­e of femininity as an opportunit­y for comedy as much as for tragedy. Consider the murals she made between 2010 and 2012 on commission from Chanel. Using a brand that has been the ultimate in Paris chic for almost a century as a foil she bedecked herself in a variety of aggressive­ly unfashiona­ble if not downright droll outfits against alternatel­y bleak and bucolic backdrops, a couple of which were presented in the 2011 Venice Biennale. In my favourite she impersonat­es a grandmothe­rly frump and a “naked,” freshfaced, sword-wielding Joan of Arc-like character in an ill-fitting body-stocking complete with full breasts and black pubic triangle. In short, not what French far right has in mind when reviving its mystical nationalis­t heroine. Surely Cindy must know that she is playing with fire when choosing such an icon to burn at the stake of ex-“Coco’s cosmetics cult. More matches please. Untitled # 122 collabo” (1) curated by Douglas Crimp in 1977 at the Artists Space in NewYork, presented the works ofT. Brauntuch, J. Goldstein, S. Levine, R. Longo and P. Smith. In 2009, at the Metropolit­an Museum of Art in NewYork, returned to this group and brought together thirty artists, including J. Baldessari, J. Casebere, S. Charleswor­th, B. Kruger, L. Lawler, R. Prince, D. Salle, C. Sherman and J. Welling. The Pictures exhibition, character’s obvious determinat­ion and distress, which given that Sherman made these pictures shortly after settling in downtown NewYork, means that her performanc­e effectivel­y belongs to Method Acting minus the Method’s fetishizat­ion of emotional “truth.” Rather she grasps that it was just a theatrical technique that worked to create an illusion. If the persona Sherman played here is more or less an “ingenue” – in other overtly vaudevilli­an photos of the same period she shows up in goofy glasses and hairdos like a daft Judy Holliday – the woman in (1983) is a virago or woman wronged. There is lots of implicit or explicit violence in later images, most of it done to anatomical­ly detailed medical models or dolls. Sherman deployed these surrogates to enact sexually disturbing scenarios and to display sexual wounds by inflicting them on body doubles. By contrast is alarming because the fury she incarnates is bottled up and about to explode but hasn’t so that we don’t yet know its magnitude. Some commentato­rs have tried to connect this and similar images as well as those that seem to sublimate Sherman’s own destructiv­e impulses to the particular­s of her life including liaisons with some famous artists and actors. That’s a wild goose chase. A Swiss collector with whom I was having breakfast at the Cipriani during the 2007 Venice Biennale saw Sherman across the terrace with Steve Martin and blithely asked “Who is the guy with Cindy Sherman?” proving that all fame is relative to context, and that even a manic clown like Martin can be upstaged by a mimic like Sherman. In any event biographic­al exegesis of her work is as pointless as strip mining it for postmodern­ist “meta” concepts. It is far better to approach her characters as multilayer­ed archetypes whose true onion-like essence lends itself to peeling until nothing remains except the Pictures Generation, Cindy Sherman Née en / born 1954 à / in Glen Ridge, New Jersey Vit à / lives in New York Exposition­s récentes / Recent solo shows: 2012 Rétrospect­ive, MoMA, New York ; Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco ; Walker Art Center, Minneapoli­s Museum of Arts, Dallas 2019-20 National Portrait Gallery, Londres (27 juin - 15 sept.) ; Vancouver Art Gallery 2020 Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris (2 avril - 31 août) Lauréate du Praemium Imperiale (American Academy of Arts and Letters). Lauréate du Wolf Prize in Arts remis à Jérusalem. Elle expose régulièrem­ent à la galerie Metro Pictures, New York Untitled #122 Untitled #122

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