Untitled A-E (1975)
Untitled Film Still #35 (1979) by Cindy ShermanOriginal Source: Courtesy of the artist and Metro Pictures, New York
Untitled Film Stills (1977-80)
In this photographic series, Sherman mimics the cultural roles of women by disguising herself in stereotypically "feminine" roles: suburban gardener, sex object, urban shopper, career girl, housewife.
The series itself consists of sixty-nine black-and-white photographs which comprise a vast repertoire of characters, all of which are Sherman herself in costume.
The images, reminiscent of "real" film stills from 1950s/'60s cinema (namely, film noir, B-Grade movies, horror films), are scrupulously reconstructed.
In her representation of a stereotyped "femininity," Sherman borrows various pictorial strategies from her sources — a nostalgic photographic style, dated costume, moody lighting, objectifying camera angles, and a partial narrative approach.
By actively playing out the stereotype of the passive female, Sherman reveals "femininity" as a fictitious, social construct.
Untitled #96 (1981) by Cindy ShermanOriginal Source: Courtesy of the artist and Metro Pictures, New York
Originally commissioned by Artforum magazine, these send-ups of men’s erotic magazines are the antitheses of conventional centerfolds.
Gone is the seduction, come-hither pose, nudity, and sexy posturing often encountered in the genre, replaced as it is by subjects who appear fearful, anxiety-ridden, or even bored.
Untitled #132 (1984) by Cindy ShermanOriginal Source: Courtesy of the artist and Metro Pictures, New York
In 1983 Sherman produced a series of fourteen photographs initiated by an Interview magazine advertising campaign for the clothing store Dianne B.
In the pictures, Sherman photographs herself wearing high-fashion clothing by designers like Comme des Garcons, Dorothee Bis, Issey Miyake and Jean-Paul Gaultier.
However, she has not presented herself as a slick fashion magazine subject but rather as an eccentric, un-glamorous model in ill-fitting clothes, challenging the industry’s conventions of beauty and grace.
Untitled #141 (1985) by Cindy ShermanOriginal Source: Courtesy of the artist and Metro Pictures, New York
Fairy Tales, 1985
In 1985, Sherman was commissioned by Vanity Fair magazine to illustrate fairy tales.
She read Aesop’s fables, the Brothers Grimm, and various folktales in preparation, seeking out the most grotesque narratives, underscoring Sherman’s preoccupation with horror and the abject.
Working with masks, prostheses, and theatrical paint, she produced a series of richly colored and macabre images, using herself as primary model and photographer.
Untitled #150 (1985) by Cindy ShermanOriginal Source: Courtesy of the artist and Metro Pictures, New York
In this series, Sherman effectively removed herself from the photographs.
Only traces of a figure remain in the form of dismembered body parts strewn across bug-infested dirt, eyes reflected in a make-up mirror amidst the detritus of a dump site, a face composed of a mass of gooey, melting candy.
History Portraits, 1988-90
Sherman’s History Portraits (1988–90) are classically composed portraits borrowed from a number of art-historical periods — Renaissance, Baroque, Rococo, Neoclassical — and make allusions to paintings by Raphael, Caravaggio, Fragonard, and Ingres.
Her subjects include Madonnas with child, clergymen, aristocrats, women of leisure, and milkmaids, who pose with props, costumes, and obvious prostheses.
Theatrical and artificial — full of large noses, bulging bellies, squirting breasts, warts, and unibrows — the history portraits are humorous re-presentations and grotesque caricatures of the Old Master paintings.
Untitled #250 (1992) by Cindy ShermanOriginal Source: Courtesy of the artist and Metro Pictures, New York
Sex Pictures, 1992
Sherman’s Sex Pictures series from 1992 is her most controversial project to-date. Eliminating herself once again from the picture frame, she arranged mannequins bought from medical-supply catalogues into pseudo-pornographic tableaus.
One hybridized figure poses with a tampon in its vagina, another with sausages excreting from its vulva, and others arranged in ways that are utterly and deliberately un-erotic, which functions to challenge porn industry standards.
Untitled #327 (1996) by Cindy ShermanOriginal Source: Courtesy of the artist and Metro Pictures, New York
Close Ups, 1996
In this series, Sherman presents extreme close-ups of faces, masks, and faces behind masks. She uses mannequin heads as well as her own face with highly theatrical make-up and intensely saturated color to create images recalling characters from the realm of science fiction and horror films.
Untitled #332 (1996) by Cindy ShermanOriginal Source: Courtesy of the artist and Metro Pictures, New York
Black & White Series, 1999
As with her Disasters (1986-89), Sherman has removed herself from this series of photographs.
Through melting and cutting, she dismembers, mutilates and reconstructs dolls that were originally unnaturally exaggerated toys such as Barbie, GI Joe, the Disney characters Aladdin and Hercules and the gay-stereotype Billy and Carlos dolls.
The mutant dolls are engaged in lurid behavior that reflects both violence and deviant sexuality as well as Sherman’s dark sense of humor and her fascination with the macabre.
Untitled #400 (2000) by Cindy ShermanOriginal Source: Courtesy of the artist and Metro Pictures, New York
Head Shots, 2000
After almost a decade of staging still lives with dolls and props, in her 2000 Head Shots, Sherman returned to using herself as a model. The format recalls headshots or vanity portraits made in garden-variety portrait studios, and features a cast of aging women.
Adding to the complexity, Sherman leaves the prosthetic noses, fake eyebrows, and artificial breasts obviously forged, undermining the believability of the carefully suggested narrative, and forcing the viewer to confront the staged aspect of the work.
Untitled #414 (2003) by Cindy ShermanOriginal Source: Courtesy of the artist and Metro Pictures, New York
Clown Series, 2003-4
Sherman's series of clown images feature riotous makeup, flamboyant costumes and digitally produced backgrounds of synthetic colors and patterns. Behind the sheer visual lushness and latent humor/horror, lies Sherman's interest in revealing the underlying pathos of the hysterically happy or intensely nasty clown image; the sadness of the character behind the greasepaint.
Untitled #468 (2008) by Cindy ShermanOriginal Source: Courtesy of the artist and Metro Pictures, New York
Society Portraits, 2008
In her Society Portraits from 2008, Sherman continues her investigation into distorted ideas of beauty, self-image and aging. Set against opulent backdrops and presented in ornate frames, the characters seem at once tragic and vulgar, as each struggles with the impossible standards of beauty that prevail in a youth- and status-obsessed culture.
Untitled #513 (2010) by Cindy ShermanOriginal Source: Courtesy of the artist and Metro Pictures, New York
Chanel Landscapes, 2012
Sherman’s series of large-scale photographs from 2012 depict outsized female figures in ominous landscapes wearing Coco Chanel designs, gazing out at the spectator. The images are loosely based on an insert Sherman did for Garage magazine for which she dressed herself in high fashion wear, ranging from haute couture pieces from the 1920s designed by Coco Chanel to vintage Karl Lagerfield from the 1980s.
Untitled #566 (2016) by Cindy ShermanOriginal Source: Courtesy of the artist and Metro Pictures, New York
Emancipated Ladies, 2016
Sherman’s photographic series from 2016 focuses on women-of-a-certain-age who were perhaps once 1920s Hollywood starlets.These characters pose with exaggerated makeup, clothing meant to evoke the 1920s, and in seductive poses, all set against backgrounds that are digitally manipulated to allude to old film sets and backdrops.
Untitled Instagram post (2017-06-04) by Cindy ShermanOriginal Source: Courtesy of the artist and Metro Pictures, New York
In 2017 Sherman unlocked her private Instagram account to reveal dozens and dozens of manipulated selfies. With her face as canvas, she uses various phone apps to distort and reshape, to retouch, to add backgrounds and makeup, or moles and wrinkles — all with the swipe of a finger.
Sherman’s highly artistic “selfies” appearing periodically on Instagram throw into relief how the social media platform is a digital dumping ground for society’s least artistic narcissists.
Sherman has raised the bar for users seeking attention or claiming to be artists.
Written by Maura Reilly
Produced by Erica Galluscio
© Cindy Sherman. Courtesy the artist and Metro Pictures, New York.