Cindy Sherman

B. United States, 1954

The Works

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Cindy Sherman

Untitled, (‘Madonna’)

1975

Silver gelatin print, printed 1997

Cindy Sherman

B. United States 1954

cindy-sherman-self-portrait

B. United States 1954

Biography

Sherman works alone on her shoots, playing the role not only of model but also of make-up artist, set designer and photographer. Though Sherman is herself implicit to her work, she seeks to remove herself from the work in order to represent a character. Thus, her work is not the traditional self-portrait, rather a performance of ‘Otherness.’ Sherman complicates this notion of difference, however, in her employment of stereotypes and prescribed female narratives. Her staged tableaux explore contemporary life and serve to uncover and reveal its various levels of fiction. Her photographs of invented characters, though played by her, serve as an exploration of identity in the contemporary world and as a stark criticism of media culture.

In the photographic series Untitled Film Stills, 1977, which resulted in international recognition, Sherman herself appears as fictional characters that, although entirely invented, appear familiar as archetypes of B-movies, or film noir heroines. Her characters are inspired by the depictions of women in mass media; particularly the stereotypical characters women play in films, but have also explored standardised postures and appearances of women in magazines and advertising campaigns. She has since appropriated other visual forms including the historical portrait and pornographic imagery. Sherman can be considered a part of the Pictures Generation – a group of American artists in the early 1970s who were known for their critical analysis of media culture.

Cindy Sherman was born in Glen Ridge, New Jersey, in 1954. In 1972, she enrolled in the visual arts department at Buffalo State College where she studied photography. In 1995, Sherman was a recipient of the MacArthur Fellowship. Sherman has participated in many international events including the Venice Biennale in 1982 and 1995, and five Whitney Biennials. Alongside many group exhibitions, Sherman’s work has also been the subject of solo exhibitions at major museums in Amsterdam, Paris, New York and Copenhagen. In 2019, the National Portrait Gallery, London organised a major retrospective of Sherman’s works ranging from the mid-1970s to the present day. Her works are held in collections at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and Tate Modern, London amongst others.

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