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b. 1954, USA

Cindy Sherman Biography

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.

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After graduating from The State University of New York at Buffalo in 1976, Sherman quickly attracted attention with her 'Untitled Film Stills' (1977–1980). 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' (1986–1989), 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' (1988–1990) 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 ageing. In another series from 2016, Sherman portrays ageing 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


Cindy Sherman Featured Artworks

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Untitled #476 by Cindy Sherman contemporary artwork
Cindy ShermanUntitled #476, 2008Chromogenic colour print
91.5 x 75.5 inches
Metro Pictures Enquire about this work
Untitled #603 by Cindy Sherman contemporary artwork
Cindy ShermanUntitled #603, 2019Dye sublimation metal print
215.3 x 195.6 cm
Sprüth Magers Enquire about this work
Untitled, ('Madonna') by Cindy Sherman contemporary artwork
Cindy ShermanUntitled, ('Madonna'), 1975Silver gelatin print, printed 1997
7 x 5 inches
Huxley-Parlour Enquire about this work
Murder Mystery by Cindy Sherman contemporary artwork
Cindy ShermanMurder Mystery, 19763 gelatin silver print cut-outs mounted on board
Sprüth Magers Enquire about this work
Untitled (Madonna) by Cindy Sherman contemporary artwork
Cindy ShermanUntitled (Madonna), 1975–1997Gelatin silver print
17.6 x 12.5 cm
Ingleby Gallery Enquire about this work
Untitled #572 by Cindy Sherman contemporary artwork
Cindy ShermanUntitled #572, 2016Dye sublimation metal print
132.1 x 116.8 cm
Sprüth Magers Enquire about this work
Untitled #567 by Cindy Sherman contemporary artwork
Cindy ShermanUntitled #567, 2016Dye sublimation metal print
128.3 x 116.8 cm
Sprüth Magers Enquire about this work
Untitled #559 by Cindy Sherman contemporary artwork
Cindy ShermanUntitled #559, 2015Three dye sublimation metal prints
120.7 x 266.4 x 5.1 cm
Sprüth Magers Enquire about this work

Cindy Sherman Current & Recent Exhibitions

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Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, Dog Days at Metro Pictures, New York
Open Now
1 May–1 August 2020 Group Exhibition Dog Days Metro PicturesOnline Only
Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, (SELF) PORTRAITS at Parkett, Zurich
Open Now
22 February–18 July 2020 Group Exhibition (SELF) PORTRAITS ParkettZurich Exhibition Space
Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, American Pastoral at Gagosian, London
Closed
23 January–14 March 2020 Group Exhibition American Pastoral GagosianBritannia Street, London

Cindy Sherman Represented By

Metro Pictures contemporary art gallery in New York, USA Metro Pictures New York
Sprüth Magers contemporary art gallery in Berlin, Germany Sprüth Magers Berlin, London, Los Angeles

Cindy Sherman In Ocula Magazine

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Shanghai Art Exhibitions to See: The Lowdown Ocula Report Shanghai Art Exhibitions to See: The Lowdown By Sam Gaskin

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 By Stephanie Bailey, Turin

Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo in Guarene and Turin, together with the Madrid Fundación, are creating a new constellation; mapping out a new geography that concretely embodies an idea of Europe based on reciprocity—between places, communities, fields of knowledge and cultures.

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The most searched artists on Ocula now Ocula Photolog The most searched artists on Ocula now

A selection of this week's most searched artists on Ocula.com 

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Ellie Buttrose Ocula Conversation Ellie Buttrose By Tess Maunder, Brisbane

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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Cindy Sherman In Related Press

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‘I’m trying to erase myself’ – an interview with Cindy Sherman Related Press ‘I’m trying to erase myself’ – an interview with Cindy Sherman 27 June 2019, Apollo

There is something profoundly uncanny about seeing Cindy Sherman in person for the first time. When she greets me at the door of her SoHo studio one afternoon in April, casually dressed and wearing no obvious make-up, I recognise her features, but not, exactly, her face. For more than 40 years, Sherman has appeared in nearly all of her work, but...

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Preview Art Basel 2019 Related Press Preview Art Basel 2019 7 June 2019, ARTnews

Art Basel 2019 opens to the public on Thursday, June 13, with two preview days, on June 11 and 12. Some 290 galleries from 34 countries will show work at the Swiss fair, which runs through June 16.

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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 10 August 2017, The New York Times

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...

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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 25 May 2017, Whitewall

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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