Cindy Sherman is the master of disguise. A true icon of socially critical photography, she creates self-portraits that never show her real self, but numerous different identities she constructs. Playing a myriad of roles, the more we see of her, the less recognizable she is. Despite being the star of her own photographs, she claims they aren’t autobiographical. Through near-limitless exploration of disguise, she comments on the female roles defined by the society, revealing gender as an unstable and constructed position. Closing out a calendar year in which every featured artist is a woman, The Wexner Center for the Arts at The Ohio State University will present an expansive survey of her work. Titled Cindy Sherman: Imitation of Life, the exposition will cover four decades of her prolific career. Curated by independent curator Philipp Kaiser, the exhibition will be comprised almost entirely of loans from The Broad Museum in Los Angeles, that houses the largest collection of Sherman’s photographs in the world, acquired since the early 1980s by Eli and Edythe Broad.
Imitation is at the very core of the artistic practice of Cindy Sherman. Throughout her career, she has been posing as her own model, masterfully deploying cinematic techniques such as lighting, makeup, costumes, and set decoration to disguise her actual identity. Portraying a wide range of common female social roles or personas, she investigates the mysterious processes through which a person’s visual identity is shaped and represented in popular culture. The Wexner director Sherri Geldin described Sherman as sheer genius. “Her stunning capacity to conjure individual personae through the painstaking specificity of detail is matched by an equally uncanny ability to evoke the most generic, even clichéd, of female typologies”, she explains. Imitation of Life emphasizes her thorough relationship to movie culture. Sherman helped to craft the show’s title, which is a reference to director Douglas Sirk’s 1959 melodrama dealing with highly emotional struggles of identity, as a reflection of the role of cinema in her image making.
The exhibition will bring together over 100 works by Sherman created over the course of four decades. Organized chronologically, the exhibition opens with some of her early works from 1976, including Murder Mystery works and Untitled Film Stills. It continues with the late-1980s series known as the history portraits, where Sherman references the paintings of old masters, highlighting the artifice of “period” representation. It also includes other works made around this time such as the Fairy Tale, Civil War, and Sex Pictures series. The works created during the 2000s include the Hollywood/Hamptons works, as well as her clown series that reveal the elements of masquerade and performance inherent in the development of individual social identity. The show concludes with works created from 2010 to 2011 where she used digital manipulation to create a disconnect between subject and setting, and a series of grand portraits from 2016 inspired by the silent film era. Her foray into feature filmmaking, Office Killer, will continuously play in galleries.
Organized by The Broad, the exhibition Cindy Sherman: Imitation of Life will be on view at the Wexner Center for the Arts on the campus of The Ohio State University in Columbus from September 16th until December 31st, 2017. It will be accompanied by an audio guide with commentary by artists and actors such as Miranda July, John Waters, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Molly Ringwald underscores the scope of her influence. The show is also accompanied by a catalog featuring an essay by curator Philipp Kaiser and a conversation between Sherman and filmmaker Sofia Coppola. On Sunday, September 17th, the Wexner Center will host a Super Sunday program featuring a photocollage workshop led by Columbus mixed media artist Bobby T Luck and a screening of the 1959 Douglas Sirk film Imitation of Life. Additional events will be announced prior to the exhibition opening.
Featured images: Cindy Sherman - Untitled #70, 1980. Chromogenic color print20 x 24 in. The Broad Art Foundation, Image courtesy of the artist and Metro Pictures, New York; Left: Untitled #100, 1982. Chromogenic color print45 x 30 in. The Eli and Edythe L. Broad Collection, Image courtesy of the artist and Metro Pictures, New York / Right: Untitled #574, 2016. Dye sublimation metal print46 x 39 in.The Broad Art Foundation, Image courtesy of the artist and Metro Pictures, New York; Left: Untitled #193, 1989. Chromogenic color print48 7/8 x 41 15/16 in. The Broad Art Foundation, Image courtesy of the artist and Metro Pictures, New York / Right: Untitled #397, 2000. Chromogenic color print36 x 24 in. The Broad Art Foundation, Image courtesy of the artist and Metro Pictures, New York; Left: Untitled #122, 1983. Chromogenic color print35 1/4 x 21 1/4 in. The Broad Art Foundation, Image courtesy of the artist and Metro Pictures, New York / Right: Untitled #474, 2008. Chromogenic color print90 3/4 x 60 in. The Broad Art Foundation, Image courtesy of the artist and Metro Pictures, New York; Untitled Film Still #58, 1980. Gelatin silver print8 x 10 in. The Broad Art Foundation, Image courtesy of the artist and Metro Pictures, New York; Untitled Film Still #54, 1980. Gelatin silver print8 x 10 in.The Broad Art Foundation, Image courtesy of the artist and Metro Pictures, New York; Untitled Film Still #07, 1978. Gelatin silver print10 x 8 in.The Broad Art Foundation, Image courtesy of the artist and Metro Pictures, New York. All images courtesy of The Wexner Center.
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