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Havana Biennial 2019: Constructing the Possible Ocula Report Havana Biennial 2019: Constructing the Possible 17 Apr 2019 : Federica Bueti for Ocula

I first visited Havana in November 2016, a few days after Fidel Castro died, and just under a year before Hurricane Irma hit Cuba in September 2017. Since then, much has changed, including the hand-painted signs that punctuate the journey from the airport to the city centre, which today do not celebrate the revolution so much as the 'Unidad y...

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Andrew Stahl and Guo Xiaohui Ocula Conversation Andrew Stahl and Guo Xiaohui

The exhibition Beyond Boundaries at Somerset House in London (12 March–2 April 2019) marked the historic contributions of the Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing (CAFA) and the Slade School of Fine Art, University College London, on the occasion of their 100th and 150th anniversaries, respectively. Spread across several rooms of Somerset House's...

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The National 2019: New Australian Art Ocula Report The National 2019: New Australian Art 13 Apr 2019 : Elyse Goldfinch for Ocula

The National 2019: New Australian Art features work by 70 contemporary Australia-based artists split across three venues: the Art Gallery of New South Wales (AGNSW), Carriageworks, and the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA) (29 March–21 July 2019), as curated by Isobel Parker Philip, curator of photographs at AGNSW; Daniel Mudie Cunningham,...

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Cindy Sherman

b. 1954, USA

Although in Cindy Sherman's photographs she acts as her own model, stylist, hairdresser and photographer, the American artist's works are hardly self-portraits. Sherman adopts different identities each time, fashioning herself as various characters and archetypes. Through the staged artifice of her photographs, Sherman conveys femaleness and identity as unfixed fabrications determined by social and cultural norms.

After graduating from The State University of New York at Buffalo in 1976, Sherman quickly attracted attention with her 'Untitled Film Stills' (1977–80). Mimicking the aesthetics of 1950s and 1960s Hollywood films, B-movies and European arthouse films, the 69 black-and-white photographs are fictitious stills from movies that never existed. In the images, Sherman 'plays' a stereotypical female character such as a housewife in Untitled Film Still #35 (1979) or a young girl just arrived in the big city in Untitled Film Still #21 (1978).

Sherman's interest in the visual codes of femaleness—with attention to fashion, makeup, demeanour and stereotypes—continued through 'Centerfolds', a series of 12 horizontal prints commissioned by Artforum in 1981. In reference to the centrefolds in men's erotic magazines and a pervasive history of consuming the female body through images, the artist photographed herself in passive positions, either lying or kneeling. The images were interpreted by some critics as showing women in vulnerable situations, which led Artforum to reject them. Sherman directly followed the series with her four 'Pink Robes' photographs, for which she posed as a woman covering her body with a pink robe and gazing challengingly at the camera, refusing objectification.

Sherman's consideration of the relationship between identity and mass media has associated her with the Pictures Generation, a group of young American artists from the 1970s and 1980s that includes Louise Lawler, Sherrie Levine, Robert Longo, Laurie Simmons and Richard Prince. Questioning notions of authorship, the Pictures Generation artists were inspired by cultural critics and French philosophers like Michel Foucault, Julia Kristeva and Roland Barthes, the last of whom famously declared 'The Death of the Author' in his 1967 manifesto. Barthes denied the possibility of original authorship, arguing that any creative output is, in fact, a derivative of others' work. Sherman—acting as both the author and subject throughout her practice—similarly does not see her artworks as shots taken of her, but instead as reproductions of ideas and archetypes.

Reacting to a mounting market demand for her photographs, from the mid-1980s some of Sherman's photographic series took a darker turn, with the artist increasingly disguising herself to the point of being unrecognisable in them. The images in 'Fairy Tales' (1985) and 'Disasters' (1986–9), for instance, are inhabited by gory remnants of a violent crime or the aftermath of unknown disasters featuring body parts, vomit and blood. Part of the series, Untitled #169 (1987), features a close-up of a man's head lying on the ground, surrounded by snow and shattered glass. The creature, though completely unrecognisable, is Sherman, transformed with prosthetics and wigs. Conversely, in 'Sex Pictures'—a later series, from 1992—the artist is physically absent from the photographs and instead populates the images with anatomical mannequins arranged into vulgar and disturbing sexual positions.

Made around the same time as 'Disasters' and 'Sex Pictures', the series 'History Portraits' (1988–90) saw Sherman borrowing from European portraiture traditions to cast solemn-looking figures in absurdly artificial settings. Untitled #228 (1990) is a full-length portrait of Sherman dressed as Judith—a biblical figure who beheaded the Assyrian general Holofernes to save her people, and a popular subject in Renaissance and Baroque paintings. While Sherman composed the portrait with references to Western art historical conventions—such as the use of textiles to adorn the background—she also willingly disclosed the artificiality of the scene: Holofernes' head, upon closer inspection, is more like a Halloween mask than a real head; the fabrics, though enhanced through the camera, are cheap buys from thrift stores. In another image, Untitled #216 (1989), the artist's awkwardly attached prosthetic breast reveals the portrait as a staged scene. Through her undisguised use of props and prosthetics, Sherman exposes the artificiality of identity construction; the ideas of identity, just like portraits, are always mediated.

In more recent years, Sherman has confronted the obsession with youth in contemporary culture. 'Society Portraits' (2008) shows her as various women of wealth whose heavy make-up and surgical enhancement hint at attempts to conceal and slow down the process of aging. In another series from 2016, Sherman portrays aging movie stars styled as they had been in their youth, criticising the impossible demands on women to maintain their youthful appearances.

Exhibiting since the 1970s, Sherman has recently held solo and group exhibitions at Sprüth Magers, London (2018); The Broad, Los Angeles (2016); Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven (2015); Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2015); National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto (2013); Tate Modern, London (2012); and Walker Art Center, Minneapolis (2012) among others. In 2012 The Museum of Modern Art, New York, organised a major retrospective of her work that travelled to San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Walker Art Center and Dallas Museum of Art. Sherman's photographs have been included in numerous international exhibitions, notably the Whitney Biennial (1995, 1993, 1991, 1985, 1983); the Biennale of Sydney (1990, 1984); and documenta 7 (1982). In 2013 she co-curated an exhibition for the 55th Venice Biennale.

Sherry Paik | Ocula | 2018
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Featured Artworks

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Untitled Film Still #57 by Cindy Sherman contemporary artwork Cindy ShermanUntitled Film Still #57, 1980 Gelatin silver print
76.2 x 101.6 cm
Metro Pictures
Murder Mystery by Cindy Sherman contemporary artwork Cindy ShermanMurder Mystery, 1976 3 gelatin silver print cut-outs mounted on board
Sprüth Magers
Untitled #595 by Cindy Sherman contemporary artwork Cindy ShermanUntitled #595, 2016/2018 Dye sublimation metal print
168.9 x 226.1 cm
Sprüth Magers
Untitled (Madonna) by Cindy Sherman contemporary artwork Cindy ShermanUntitled (Madonna), 1975–1997 Gelatin silver print
17.6 x 12.5 cm
Ingleby Gallery
Untitled #257 by Cindy Sherman contemporary artwork Cindy ShermanUntitled #257, 1992 Chromogenic colour print
172.7 x 114.3 cm
Metro Pictures
Untitled #155 by Cindy Sherman contemporary artwork Cindy ShermanUntitled #155, 1985 Chromogenic colour print
181.6 x 121.9 cm
Metro Pictures
Untitled #589 by Cindy Sherman contemporary artwork Cindy ShermanUntitled #589, 2016–2018 Dye sublimation metal print
229.2 x 229.2 cm
Sprüth Magers
Untitled #591 by Cindy Sherman contemporary artwork Cindy ShermanUntitled #591, 2016/2018 Dye sublimation metal print
154.6 x 191.8 cm
Metro Pictures

Recent Exhibitions

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Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, Eau de Cologne at Sprüth Magers, Berlin
26 March–12 April 2019 Group Exhibition Eau de Cologne Sprüth Magers, Berlin
Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, Sometimes I disappear at Ingleby Gallery, Edinburgh
2 February–13 April 2019 Group Exhibition Sometimes I disappear Ingleby Gallery, Edinburgh
Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, Life to come at Metro Pictures, New York
17 January–16 February 2019 Group Exhibition Life to come Metro Pictures, New York

Represented By

In Ocula Magazine

Shanghai Art Exhibitions to See: The Lowdown Ocula Report Shanghai Art Exhibitions to See: The Lowdown 2 Nov 2018 : Sam Gaskin for Ocula

There is no official Shanghai Art Week, but the term has nevertheless entered the lexicon of the city's contemporary art community. It's especially apt this year, with the firmly established West Bund Art Fair (8–11 November 2018) and Art021 (9–11 November 2018) taking place the same week that the 12th Shanghai Biennale opens at the Power Station...

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Patrizia Sandretto Re Rebaudengo Ocula Conversation Patrizia Sandretto Re Rebaudengo Founder, Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo

Patrizia Sandretto Re Rebaudengo started collecting contemporary art in 1992, after graduating from Torino University, where she studied business and economics. She began her collection with four works from the late-1950s and early-1960s by Italian artists: Carla Accardi, Tano Festa, Mario Merz and Salvatore Scarpitta. 'I enjoyed the idea of...

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Ellie Buttrose Ocula Conversation Ellie Buttrose Associate Curator of Contemporary International Art, QAGOMA

In 1977 Cindy Sherman began her most critically acclaimed body of work called the Untitled Film Stills (1977-1980). This series—in which Sherman photographs herself posed in different roles and settings producing a result reminiscent of Italian neorealism or American film noir—became famous for challenging the dominant gaze...

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Phong Bui Ocula Conversation Phong Bui Curator, 'Bloodflames Revisited'

In March 2014, a show opened at Paul Kasmin Gallery titled Alexander the Great: The Iolas Gallery 1955–1987, which celebrated the legendary gallerist Alexander Iolas, who was among the first to introduce American audiences to Surrealism and who gave Andy Warhol his first gallery exhibition (and, coincidentally, also his last in 1987). The...

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In Related Press

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Cindy Sherman Takes Selfies (as Only She Could) on Instagram Related Press Cindy Sherman Takes Selfies (as Only She Could) on Instagram The New York Times : 10 August 2017

Media hacks have Twitter, excitable teenagers have Snapchat and middle managers have LinkedIn, but in the art world, the social network of choice remains Instagram, where all the world's beauty is gridded into squares.That photo-sharing app is the de facto broadcast medium for new exhibitions, and it's an agora, too, for artists and curators in a...

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Monika Sprüth and Philomene Magers on Activism, Feminism, and The Future Related Press Monika Sprüth and Philomene Magers on Activism, Feminism, and The Future Whitewall : 25 May 2017

Monika Sprüth and Philomene Magers are matriarchs of contemporary art. Their gallery currently has spaces in London, Berlin, and Los Angeles, but it began in the later 1990s when Sprüth mentored Magers and invited her to collaborate on a shared program in Cologne featuring artists Jenny Holzer, Barbara Kruger, Cindy Sherman, Sylvie Fleury, and...

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At Zabludowicz Collection, artists test the parameters between authenticity and artifice Related Press At Zabludowicz Collection, artists test the parameters between authenticity and artifice Wallpaper* : 28 April 2017

Fact or fiction? That's the main question posed by a curious new exhibition of contemporary photography at the Zabludowicz Collection in London. On view until 9 July, You Are Looking At Something That Never Occurred draws from the gallery's archive to present seminal works by 14 artists who use the camera to test the parameters between past and...

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'You always find something different': Sir Elton John on his love of photography Related Press 'You always find something different': Sir Elton John on his love of photography Christie's : 14 March 2017

‘A photograph brings me so much joy, they’re beautiful objects,’ says Sir Elton John, discussing a remarkable collection of 25 works by some of the world’s greatest photographers, to be offered at Christie’s in New York on 6 April 2017. Proceeds from the sale of these works will benefit the Elton John AIDS Foundation (EJAF), an international...

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