Revealing Character

A new, digitally enhanced Cindy Sherman exhibition at Metro Pictures Gallery.

poster for Cindy Sherman Exhibition

Cindy Sherman Exhibition

at Metro Pictures
in the Chelsea 24th area
This event has ended - (2008-11-15 - 2008-12-23)

In Reviews by Alex Callender 2008-12-03 print

Cindy Sherman’s new collection of photographs, on view at Metro Pictures Gallery, continues a lineage of stylized self-portraits that play with the boundaries of ego and artifice. As these various characters have evolved over the years, so has the artist’s age become part of the narrative.

Sherman’s new large-scale photographs begin where she left off in 2004, maintaining a centralized female figure in front of digitally enhanced backgrounds. In this series, her characters revolve around an archetype of a wealthy aging female, at times graceful, reluctant, foolish, stubborn, vain and (possibly) transsexual. Yes, at one point Sherman appears to be herself playing a man who is playing a woman desperate for the seduction of the viewer.

Cindy Sherman, ''Untitled,'' 2008. Courtesy of the Artist and Metro Pictures

The “sets” contextualize the madam of the house in her culture of privilege, like a surreal Tina Barney study of an imaginary American countess. The portraits are presented like commissioned works, and the Victorian propriety is sometimes tuned to such an absurd pitch that we see Sherman as a tragic comic. It’s interesting to consider what character the artist is accessing in herself, or from whom these impersonations are culled.

While some of the images are amusing in tone, the majority of the 14 prints render, in darker comedy, a more unsympathetic response to wealthy women confronting age and vanity. As in one portrait, a dour elegant woman sits on a duvet in low lighting, a small stuffed dog lurching forward in her lap. This aging aristocrat appears to disregard reality completely, preferring to stroke a synthetic Terrier.

Cindy Sherman, ''Untitled,'' 2008. Courtesy of the Artist and Metro Pictures

In many of the portraits, the women aggressively confront the lens with their gaze and body language. The lighting and makeup have been crafted so that we recognize every wrinkle, pore and physical imperfection; signs of aging that you would assume the character is trying to defy. Several of the women even have exaggerated red rims on their lower eyelids to further draw attention to their gaze, and manage to evoke a classic sense of pathos from the viewer.

Unlike Sherman’s early images, which used low-tech stages to engender the narrative, Sherman now uses new media to fabricate rooms and environments that complete the image in post production. The manipulation is surprising and in some instances disassociates us from the central figure, referencing abstract field painting in the form of roll-down studio backdrops. In other works, Sherman alludes to speed and motion by layering images, so the subject seems frozen like a puppet in a spinning room. This quality of performance and disassociation is enhanced by instances when the figure and the background obviously do not share the same light source.

In true Sherman style, the humanity in these photographs speaks a little like a confession. With her current exhibition, Cindy Sherman displays a deepening mastery of her craft, and these portraits continue to chart a mythology of selves.

Alex Callender

Alex Callender. Alex Callender is a visual artist and adjunct instructor who lives and works in Brooklyn, NY. Alex hopes to see the day when this country's student loan system dissolves into a harmless gas and secondary education becomes a right. She also writes a bit. » See other writings

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