15 January 2017

Cindy Sherman: chameleon, comedian

The City Gallery's current exhibition of the post-2000 photos of New York artist Cindy Sherman is a fantastic opportunity to see the work of a world-renowned photographer in Wellington. Like many people, I first came across Sherman's work through her justly famed Untitled Film Stills sequences taken from 1977 to 1980, featuring Sherman portraying dramatic - or perhaps cliched - moments from imaginary films. Building a surprisingly engrossing narrative out of single frame, untitled photographs, Sherman displayed a rare talent for reinvention and a compelling visual imagination. The photographs in this exhibition come from her second period of self-portraiture from 2000 onwards, and display Sherman's confident self of humour and unselfconsciousness in portraying characters who are fashion victims, clothes-horses or just plain odd. From Upper East Side millionaire matrons to sunburnt Californian stoners, Sherman exhibits a tremendous talent for reinvention on what could be a relatively limited range of material.

In an accompanying video interview the surprisingly down-to-earth Sherman explains her process much the same as an actor preparing for a new role. Often the inspiration comes from the costumes she digs up in Manhattan's op-shops, but also recently she has been commissioned by fashion houses to portray characters using their wardrobes - which I would've thought was a slightly risky affair, given Sherman's satirical intent.

An excellent sample of the Sherman exhibition can be seen in this Guardian post from March 2016, and if you're in Wellington you have until 19 March to catch the exhibition just off Civic Square.

See also:
Photography: The City - Becoming & Decaying, 23 March 2014
Photography: Dark Cloud White Light, 22 September 2013
Photography: Sukita-Bowie: Speed of Life, 16 September 2012

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