By Paul Pastore
One of the twentieth century’s most influential artists, Cindy Sherman, has a new exhibition opening at the Mnuchin Gallery on New York’s Upper East Side. The show is titled “Once Upon A Time: 1981-2011,” and opens today.
Sherman’s work is often executed in series; she transforms herself in elaborately staged self-portraits with a running theme. Working alone, she photographs herself in her studio, assuming the roles of stylist, makeup artist, hairdresser, model, and director. Though she might be thought of as the originator of the selfie, Sherman dismissed social media as “vulgar” in an interview with the New York Times last year, so critics would do well to stay away from the term. Despite her contempt for modern culture in that respect, she’s no stranger to collaborations with the fashion industry. In 2014, she collaborated with Louis Vuitton on a limited edition cross body bag as part of its LV Monogram celebration.
This particular exhibition focuses on three series Sherman considers most central to her career, titled Centerfolds, History Portraits, and Society Portraits respectively. The Centerfolds series launched Sherman’s career over three decades over in 1981. The photographs in that section show the artist emulating a pinup, but fully clothed and with a reflective expression on her face. Between the years of 1988 and 1990, Sherman completed the second section, History Portraits. In this series, she inserts herself into Renaissance, Baroque, Neoclassical and Rococo paintings. At the time of its launch, the images created quite a stir due to their satirical nature and the fact that Sherman photographed herself as a man for the first time.
In the final and most recent series in the exhibition, Sherman models herself on older New York City socialites in and around familiar Manhattan landmarks like Central Park and the National Arts Club. This series was completed in 2008 at the same time as the global recession. Sherman intended for the images to be a critique of superficial excess, as well as a commentary on ageism. To this end, Sherman gave herself prosthetic makeup to imitate plastic surgery and applied foundation and powder in heavy layers.