Princess Gloria von Thurn und Taxis, Germany
Phillips de Pury & Co., New York, Princess von Thurn & Taxis Sale, 7 November 2005, Lot 12 (consigned by the above)
Private Collection, New York (acquired from the above)
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2012
Milan, Padiglione d’Arte Contemporanea di Milano, Cindy Sherman, October - November 1990, n.p. (text, edition no. unknown, smaller edition)
Washington D.C., Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Directions Cindy Sherman: Film Stills, March - June 1995, n.p. (text) and illustrated on the back cover (edition no. unknown)
New York, The Museum of Modern Art, Cindy Sherman: The Complete Film Stills, June - September 1997, p. 89, illustrated (edition no. unknown)
Los Angeles, The Museum of Contemporary Art; Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art; Prague, Galerie Rudolfinum; London, Barbican Art Gallery; Bordeaux, CAPC Musée d'art Contemporain de Bordeaux; Sydney, Museum of Contemporary Art; and Toronto, Art Gallery of Ontario, Cindy Sherman: Retrospective, November 1997 - January 2000, p. 90, no. 59, illustrated (edition no. unknown)
Paris, Jeu de Paume; Bregenz, Kunsthaus Bregenz; Humlebaek, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art; and Berlin, Martin Gropius Bau, Cindy Sherman, May 2006 - September 2007, n.p., illustrated (edition no. unknown, smaller edition)
New York, The Museum of Modern Art; San Francisco, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Minneapolis, Walker Art Center; Dallas, Dallas Museum of Art, Cindy Sherman, February 2012 - June 2013, p. 121, no. 81, illustrated (edition no. unknown)
Peter Schjeldahl and I. Michael Danoff, Cindy Sherman, New York 1984, n.p., no. 36 (edition no. unknown)
Exh. Cat., New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, Cindy Sherman, July - October 1987, n.p., no. 36, illustrated (edition no. unknown)
Rosalind Krauss and Norman Bryson, Eds., Cindy Sherman 1975-1993, New York 1993, n.p., no. 43, illustrated (edition no. unknown)
David Frankel, Cindy Sherman: The Complete Untitled Film Stills, New York 2003, p. 89, illustrated (edition no. unknown)
Phyllis Rosenzweig in : Exh. Cat., Washington D.C., Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Directions Cindy Sherman: Film Stills, 1995, n.p.
In the Autumn of 1977, a 23 year-old Cindy Sherman started producing images that would become one of the most ground-breaking and iconic photographic series of the post-modern era: the Untitled Film Stills. In this visually and conceptually arresting body of 70 works, Sherman posed as fictitious movie characters inspired by stereotypical female roles familiar to 1950s and ‘60s movies. In doing this, Sherman importantly exposed ingrained gendered stereotypes and the culturally accepted subjugatory role of women. In each photograph Sherman appears in a different guise, ranging from the ingénue, the sex kitten, the hardened film-noir heroine to the sophisticate, the lonely housewife, or the city girl. In the present example, Sherman embodies coquettish innocence as she sits demurely in a meadow; however, in typical fashion, the image teems with suspense, as the viewer takes on the role of a predatory observer. With a full suite of Untitled Film Stills housed in The Museum of Modern Art and having been fully canonised by a slew of art historians since their conception, this groundbreaking body of work today stands as one of the most significant made in the Twentieth Century.
Conceived over a period of three years, this encyclopaedic series would come to define Sherman’s idiosyncratic artistic vocabulary and catalyse her career as one of the leading artists of the influential Pictures Generation. Similar to fellow Pictures artists Richard Prince (who was her boyfriend around that time) and Robert Longo (whom she met at college), Sherman was deeply influenced by commercial image culture and the diffusion of stereotypes via popular imagery. While Prince focused on re-photographing iconic images taken from the advertising world and Longo aimed to recreate a particular sense of motion and energy in his drawings, Sherman cast herself as the star in her own cinematic mise-en-scène.
Created in the classic format, scale, and quality that would mimic the often staged ‘stills’ used to promote films, Sherman conceived the first six pictures as a group in which she impersonated a single actress in various roles. This experiment soon expanded into a detailed survey of various different characters and scenes, all loosely inspired by film imagery. Rather than assuming overdramatic poses, however, Sherman aimed to create conceptually demanding images that would stir the viewer’s imagination and fantasies. As the artist has explained: “What I didn’t want were pictures showing strong emotions, which was rare to see; in film stills there’s a lot of overacting because they’re trying to sell the movie” (Cindy Sherman cited in: David Frankel, Ed., Cindy Sherman: The Complete Untitled Film Stills, New York 2003, p. 8). As perfectly illustrated in the present work, the scene is seemingly peaceful and yet it is filled with tension. Sherman is not looking directly into the camera, her face is only partly visible. The camera is positioned in such a way that it locates the viewer voyeuristically outside of the presented scene, but in such a way that the viewer’s ominous presence is perceived by the still’s apparently vulnerable leading lady. Negating our gaze while opening up a radical, thrilling complicity, the present work situates the viewer as both voyeur and protagonist – the work’s simultaneous consumer and subject.
Acting as a cultural mirror to the idealisation and fetishizing of stereotypical female roles in society – roles taken for granted for the best part of the Twentieth Century – these works occupy an ambiguous terrain between appropriation and imagination, fiction and reality. By employing the same seductive mechanisms as the film industry, Sherman positions the viewer as both critical observer and complicit actor in her beautifully open-ended fragmentary cinematic dramas.
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