Minneapolis, October 26, 2012—Throughout her career, American artist Cindy Sherman (b. 1954) has used photography to present a sustained, eloquent, and provocative exploration of the construction of contemporary identity and the nature of representation. From November 10, 2012 through February 17, 2013 the Walker Art Center will present Cindy Sherman, a comprehensive survey tracing the groundbreaking American artist’s career from the mid-1970s to the present. The exhibition, organized by The Museum of Modern Art, New York, brings together more than 160 key photographs from the artist’s acclaimed bodies of work.
Widely regarded as one of the most influential and important artists today, Sherman has worked for more than 30 years as her own model, art director, makeup artist and stylist, generating an astonishing range of guises and personas that are by turns amusing and disturbing, distasteful and affecting. Drawing inspiration from the unlimited supply of images available through movies, TV, magazines, the Internet, and art history, Sherman deploys an arsenal of wigs, costumes, makeup, prosthetics, and props in the making of her photographs, deftly altering her physique and surroundings. By transforming herself into a continually intriguing variety of characters—from screen siren to clown to aging socialite—Sherman taps into aspects of gender and class identity; artifice and fiction; horror and the grotesque; and other themes that resonate deeply within our visual culture.
Cindy Sherman will showcase the artist’s greatest achievements to date through the extraordinary range and evolution of her work, from her early experiments as a student in Buffalo in the 1970s to her recent large-scale photographic murals. To avoid specific narrative association, Sherman never titles her work, but has consistently produced her photographs in series, which have informal names. Arranged in a chronological fashion, the exhibition will highlight her major bodies of work, including:
- A complete set of the “Untitled Film Stills” (1977-80), Sherman’s celebrated series featuring some 70 black-and-white images that explore the stereotypes of film. In these, the only series shot outside her studio, Sherman poses in a variety of guises that resemble promotional photographs from movie studios. While many have the feel of 1950s and 1960s films, B-movies, or European art house films, the characters are entirely fictional, and none of the photographs references an actual film.
- A complete group of her 12 centerfolds (1981), photographs originally commissioned for Artforum magazine and made in a horizontal format that evokes page spreads from men’s magazines as well as cinema screens. In place of erotic imagery, the large scale, immersive images present clothed women—none of them looking at the camera—who seem to be in various states of emotion, from fear to anxiety to ennui.
- Selections from major series such as “Fairy Tales” and “Disasters,” where Sherman inhabits the identities of macabre, highly exaggerated characters drawn from the dark side of stories and legends.
- History portraits (1988-90), where Sherman mines art history, borrowing the guises of various subjects in paintings from Renaissance and post-Renaissance eras—icons, aristocrats, clergy, and commoners—using detailed costumes and set pieces.
- Sex pictures (1992), a series where dolls Sherman ordered from medical supply catalogues become stand-ins for the human body, then are manipulated to mimic scenes from pornography or to create hybrid, sometimes horrific combinations of body parts.
- Head shots (2000), a more intimately scaled series that recalls ID pictures, promotional photographs made by aspiring actors, or vanity portraits made in department store studios. With this cast of characters—from the aging beauty queen, to the old hippie, to the tough girl on the corner—Sherman underscores the power of stereotypes as transmitters of cultural clichés.
- Clowns (2003-04), where Sherman carefully manipulates costume, makeup, background, and composition to create individualistic portraits of these iconic circus performers.
- Society portraits (2008), a series set against opulent backgrounds in which Sherman assumes the guise of women of a certain age from the upper echelons of society. At once tragic and vulgar, the figures are not based on specific women but seem entirely familiar in their struggle with the impossible standards of beauty that prevail in a youth- and status-obsessed culture.
The exhibition also includes a gallery highlighting Sherman’s work through the years with the fashion industry, in which couture clothing—from such designers as Comme des Garcons, Issey Miyake, Chanel, and Balenciaga—plays a key role in the personas she creates. In addition, a large-scale, site-specific photographic mural produced in 2010-12 will be shown in the first gallery of the exhibition, which pairs this newest work from Sherman with her earliest photographic projects. The exhibition includes an audio guide and is accompanied by a major publication.
Walker After Hours Preview Party: Altar Ego
Friday, November 9, 9 pm–12 midnight, $30 ($20 Walker members)
Sultry Renaissance milkmaid? Faded pin-up star? Not-so-gracefully-aging socialite? Known for her penchant for dress-up and disguise, Cindy Sherman has transformed herself over the course of three decades into personas that span the grotesque, the fairy tale, and the all too true.
Let your alter ego out as you get a first look at the critically acclaimed retrospective exhibition Cindy Sherman before it opens to the public. Highlights include a special edition of Party People Pictures enhanced with Aveda Institute makeup artists/stylists and costumes from the Guthrie Theater, cocktails and appetizers by Modern Events by D’Amico, and beats by Lady Heat Hot Soul Party.
New members receive a free party ticket (or other premiums) for joining.
Opening Day Talk
Sherman from Four Sides: Malik Gaines, Tom Kalin, Eva Respini, and
Moderated by Walker Chief Curator Darsie Alexander
Saturday, November 10, 2 pm, Walker Cinema $10 ($8 members)
Artists from across a wide array of disciplines find ongoing meaning and complexity in the work of Cindy Sherman. In a unique panel comprised of artists with backgrounds in fiction writing, film, performance and, of course, contemporary art, the multifaceted impact of her thirty-year career will be explored.
Malik Gaines is a writer and curator, as well as a performer in My Barbarian, a troupe that has brought both playful theatricality and cultural critique to art institutions for more than 10 years. Filmmaker, writer, producer, and activist Tom Kalin is a prominent figure in the New Queer Cinema; in addition to his features Swoon and Savage Grace, he also has created a number of short films and video works and collaborated on the screenplay for Sherman’s 1997 feature film Office Killer. Guggenheim Fellow Lynne Tillman is the author of five novels, as well as short stories, nonfiction, and cultural criticism; a frequent collaborator with artists, the stories in her collection This Is Not It were based on contemporary artworks. Respini is associate curator in the department of photography at The Museum of Modern Art, New York and is curator of Cindy Sherman.
The panelists will bring their varied perspectives to bear in a conversation that explores how the ever-unfolding narratives, characters, and identities that Sherman constructs speak volumes about contemporary culture. The panel will be moderated by the Walker’s chief curator, Darsie Alexander.
Cindy Sherman is organized by The Museum of Modern Art, New York, where it was on view from February 26 to June 11, 2012. It traveled to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (July 14-October 7, 2012) before its run at the Walker Art Center, following which it will travel to the Dallas Museum of Art (March 17-June 9, 2013) and the Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo, Brazil (July 20-October 13, 2013).
Major support for the Walker Art Center’s presentation is provided by Martha and Bruce Atwater, Elizabeth Redleaf, and John L. Thomson. Additional support is generously provided by the Broad Art Foundation, Marilyn and Larry Fields, and Karen and Ken Heithoff. Media partner Mpls.St.Paul Magazine.
Organizing curators: Eva Respini, associate curator, with Lucy Gallun, curatorial assistant, department of photography at The Museum of Modern Art, New York.
Walker coordinating curator: Siri Engberg.