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The original selfie queen: Cindy Sherman's candid camera

25 June 2019

Cindy Sherman is one of America’s most influential living artists, renowned for her series of photographs featuring hundreds of characters modelled by the artist herself. Two new exhibitions showcase these remarkable works, which, in the age of the selfie, are more relevant than ever.

Untitled #92 by Cindy Sherman, 1981 (from the Centerfolds series). Courtesy of the artist and Metro Pictures, New York

Born in 1954 in New Jersey, Cindy Sherman first explored the ideas that would become her trademark while attending art school at Buffalo State College, where she quickly abandoned painting in favour of photography.

Drawing on imagery from art history, film, TV, magazines (and, later, the internet), and making use of make-up, costumes, props and prosthetics, Sherman has become renowned for her explorations into the construction of contemporary identity.

Untitled Film Still #15, 1978, and Untitled Film Still #21, 1978, by Cindy Sherman. Courtesy of the artist and Metro Pictures, New York

She began the Untitled Film Stills series after moving to New York in 1977. The 70 black-and-white photographs, featuring Sherman wearing a range of costumes and hairstyles referencing vintage Hollywood, film noir and European art-house films, received widespread critical recognition and defined the approach she would take for much of her career.

No other artist interrogates the illusions presented by modern culture in such a penetrating way
Curator Paul Moorhouse

The entire series is on show at the National Portrait Gallery’s new Cindy Sherman exhibition, along with 80 other works ranging from the 1970s to the present day.

Among them are all five Cover Girl images, completed when she was a student in 1976, in which Sherman places herself on famous magazine covers, as well as shots from acclaimed series including Rear Screen Projections, Centerfolds, History Portraits, Fairy Tales, Sex Pictures, Masks, Headshots, Clowns and Society Portraits.

Untitled #577, 2016/18, and Untitled #413, 2003 (from the Clowns series), by Cindy Sherman. Courtesy of the artist and Metro Pictures, New York

Curator Paul Moorhouse said: “Cindy Sherman’s art is completely distinctive. By inventing fictitious characters and photographing herself in imaginary situations, she inhabits a world of pure appearance. No other artist interrogates the illusions presented by modern culture in such a penetrating way - or scrutinises so tellingly the façades that people adopt.”

The Cindy Sherman exhibition is at the National Portrait Gallery, London, from 27 June to 15 September 2019.

Cindy Sherman #Untitled is the title of a new documentary in the Arena strand, coming to BBC Four later this year. Sherman appears in almost every photograph she takes, yet shies away from the media spotlight and practically never appears on camera. Along with rare access to the artist herself, this film features artists, curators and those closest to Sherman throughout her life and career.

Early works in Edinburgh

Timed to coincide with the London show, Edinburgh’s Stills Centre for Photography is hosting an exhibition focusing on Cindy Sherman’s seminal early material.

Untitled #393 (Murder Mystery People) by Cindy Sherman, 1976/2000. Courtesy of the artist and Metro Pictures, New York / The SAMMLUNG VERBUND Collection, Vienna

On display are some of Sherman’s earliest self-portrait photographs, the 1976 series Untitled (Murder Mystery People), and the 16mm film Doll Clothes (1975), as well as a selection of works from Untitled Film Stills (1977-80).

Cindy Sherman: Early Works, 1975-80 is at the Stills Centre for Photography from 28 June to 6 October 2019.

Untitled Film Still #24 by Cindy Sherman, 1978. Courtesy of the artist and Metro Pictures, New York
Untitled #466, 2008 (from the Society Portraits series), and Untitled #574, 2016, by Cindy Sherman. Courtesy of the artist and Metro Pictures, New York
Cover Girl (Vogue) by Cindy Sherman, 1976 / 2011. Courtesy of the artist and Metro Pictures, New York
Madame Moitessier by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, 1856. The National Gallery, London. Bought, 1936. © The National Gallery, London. It is displayed alongside Untitled #204 by Cindy Sherman, 1989 (from the History Portraits series). Courtesy of the artist and Metro Pictures, New York
Untitled #74 by Cindy Sherman, 1980 (from the Rear Screen Projections series). Courtesy of the artist and Metro Pictures, New York

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