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Hito Steyerl: How To Build a Sustainable Art World Ocula Conversation Hito Steyerl: How To Build a Sustainable Art World

'A Picture of War is Not War', we read in Hito Steyerl's iconic film November (2004), an essayistic Super 8 film tackling the definition of terrorism constructed around the figure of the artist's best friend Andrea Wolf, who was killed as a terrorist in 1998 in Eastern Anatolia after she joined the PKK (Kurdistan Workers' Party). Mixing documentary...

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Aichi to Okayama: Art in Japan Looks to the Future Ocula Report Aichi to Okayama: Art in Japan Looks to the Future 11 Oct 2019 : Stephanie Bailey for Ocula

There has been a flurry of triennial and biennial art activity in Japan this year. The Aichi Triennale opened in Nagoya this August, sparking a national debate about the shutting down of a display of formerly censored works—the result of public backlash against a burnt image of Emperor Hirohito and a statue commemorating the women forced into...

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Hans Hartung and Art Informel: Exhibition Walkthrough Ocula Insight | Video
Sponsored Content | Mazzoleni Gallery
Hans Hartung and Art Informel: Exhibition Walkthrough 15 October 2019

Hans Hartung and Art Informel at Mazzoleni London (1 October 2019-18 January 2020) presents key works by the French-German painter while highlighting his connection with artists active in Paris during the 50s and 60s. In this video, writer and historian Alan Montgomery discusses Hartung's practice and its legacy.Born in Leipzig in 1904, Hans...

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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' (1977–1980). 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.

Biography by Sherry Paik | Ocula | 2018
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Featured Artworks

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Untitled #602 by Cindy Sherman contemporary artwork
Cindy ShermanUntitled #602, 2019 Dye sublimation metal print
193.7 x 222.3 cm
Metro Pictures
Murder Mystery by Cindy Sherman contemporary artwork
Cindy ShermanMurder Mystery, 1976 Gelatin silver print collage
56.2 x 50.5 cm
Metro Pictures
Untitled #603 by Cindy Sherman contemporary artwork
Cindy ShermanUntitled #603, 2019 Dye sublimation metal print
215.3 x 195.6 cm
Metro Pictures
Untitled #198 by Cindy Sherman contemporary artwork
Cindy ShermanUntitled #198, 1989 Chromogenic colour print
113 x 86.4 cm
Metro Pictures
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

Recent Exhibitions

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Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, An Exhibition For Notre-Dame at Gagosian, Paris
Closed
11 June–27 July 2019 Group Exhibition An Exhibition For Notre-Dame Gagosian, Paris
Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, Eau de Cologne at Sprüth Magers, Berlin
Closed
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
Closed
2 February–13 April 2019 Group Exhibition Sometimes I disappear Ingleby Gallery, Edinburgh

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

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 ARTnews : 7 June 2019

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 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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