Monday, March 5, 2012

Cindy Sherman at the Museum of Modern Art

The Cindy Sherman retrospective opened at MoMA last week.  I am conflicted about her work.  I love the early film stills--who doesn't?--and while I find the recent "society portraits" fun to look at, they feel like gags to me.  There is a lot in between, of course, and her photography has played an important role in shaping the discourse on art and gender in the 1980s, as well as representing principles of postmodernism.  It is undeniable that Sherman has had an extraordinarily influential career.  I am hard pressed to think of another artist who has had as much impact over the past thirty years.

I'm blown away by MoMA's interactive website....what an amazing companion to the exhibition.  It is tempting to say, especially with photography, that maybe it isn't necessary to see the actual show.  But Sherman's later photographs are blown up to the scale of history paintings and their drama is surely much diminished in computer screen encounters! The interactive has a leveling effect, making the early and late work seem similar in scale and presentation, and this is very deceptive.  The historical and material specificity of her photographs is lost.  That said, it's an invaluable resource for those who can't see the show itself.


  1. I just wanted to comment on the "society portraits". I find them so powerful and not gag-like due to the fact I have met women like this and I feel her portrayal of them will really leave a true depiction of certain women living in this time.

    I agree that there is something lost in viewing an exhibition like this on a computer screen, but also that it is a wonderful opportunity when unable to see the show itself!

  2. I am not a fan of Cindy Sherman's work. Any of it. To be frank, I hate it. I'm tired of looking at her face, and I feel that her more recent work is hideous. I don't think she wanted these characters to be attractive so to say, but I do not enjoy viewing them in any way she intended.

    1. Cory, what do you think she intends with these photographs?

  3. I too find her society portraits compelling in that they really get in touch with women in that social echelon in a sympathetic way. They show the human vulnerability in us all.

    I have not given much consideration to the impact of any given artist over the past 30 years. That is precisely why this class is so valuable. I am going to start considering which artists who have been active in the past thirty years have been most impactful to both myself and society.

    The site is quite nice. I feel that seeing them in person is irreplaceable, but we are learning to assign a scale hierarchy to images on the web, and reimagine them how they might be in the physical world.

  4. First I just wanted to comment on how amazing the MOMA site is and how great it was to scroll through her film stills and everything else for that matter. As a photographer I am a huge fan of Cindy Sherman from the film stills to the society portraits. She is more than a photographer she is an actress, playing the roles of different characters that she sees existing to today's society. I know that some of her works can come off as a gag, and some of the works are funny because they are so ridiculous.

    There's a great ART 21 on her that really explains where she is coming from, check it out:

  5. I think she is at play. She loves creating characters and giving them backstories. She is obsessed with taking pictures of herself. I think it is more interesting to hear what people think about her work than her actual work.