- Cindy Sherman
- Untitled #91
- signed, dated 1981 and numbered 6/10 on a label affixed to the reverse
- chromogenic print
Metro Pictures, New York
Nicola Jacobs Gallery, London
Acquired by the present owner from the above in 1982
Exh. Cat., Tokyo, Laforet Museum, Cindy Sherman, 1984 (another example)
Peter Schjeldahl and Michael Danoff, Cindy Sherman, New York, 1984, pl. 55, illustrated in color (ed. no. unknown)
Exh. Cat., New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, Cindy Sherman, 1987, pl. 55, n.p., illustrated (another example)
Ikurah Takano and Laurie Simmons, Cindy Sherman, Tokyo, 1987, p. 44, illustrated (ed. no. unknown)
Exh. Cat., Oslo, Kunstnernes Hus (and traveling), Louise Lawler, Cindy Sherman, Laurie Simmons, 1993, p. 10, illustrated in color (another example)
Rita Krauss, Cindy Sherman 1975 - 1993, New York, 1993, p. 101, illustrated in color (ed. no. unknown)
"Cindy Sherman," Kunst Heute, no. 14, Cologne, 1995, pp. 72-73, illustrated in color (ed. no. unknown)
Rita Krauss, Bachelors, Cambridge, 1999, p. 132, illustrated in color (ed. no. unknown)
Exh. Cat., Hamburg, Deichtorhallen, Malmö, Konsthall; Lucerne, Kunstmuseum, Cindy Sherman: Photographic Work 1975-1995, 1995, cat. no. 43, n.p., illustrated (another example)
Exh. Cat., New York, Skarstedt Fine Art, Cindy Sherman: Centerfolds 1981, 2003, pp. 12 and 13, illustrated in color (another example)
Exh. Cat., Paris, Jeu de Paume (and traveling), Cindy Sherman, 2006, pp. 90-91, illustrated in color and p. 249, illustrated in color (ed. no. unknown)
Exh. Cat., New York, Museum of Modern Art (and traveling), Cindy Sherman, 2012, pl. 94, pp. 142-143, illustrated in color (ed. no. unknown)
On November 7, 1981 Cindy Sherman rocked the art community to its visual core with the debut of a dozen profoundly radical images formatted into an 'in-your-face, read-into-them, and- project-onto-them-as-you-will' exhibition at Metro Pictures in New York. The visual topography of the exhibition was specific to images of women captured in various provocative psychological and physical states, each with an astonishing common denominator - the artist herself. What made the exhibition subversive was that Sherman captured herself in a range of guises and personas within curiously indeterminate narratives which were both disturbing and affecting. With a revolutionary click of the shutter, Cindy Sherman was at once the observer, the observed and the introspective objectified whose thought-provoking exhibition heralded a new brand of image and art making. The exhibition piqued critical acclaim and "one impassioned critic wrote that the show 'cracked my personal top-ten list of life-changing art epiphanies'," (Eva Respini, "Will the Real Cindy Sherman Please Stand Up?" in Exh. Cat., New York, Museum of Modern Art, Cindy Sherman, New York, 2012, p. 30). On November 18, 1981, Peter Schjeldahl penned in the Village Voice that the Metro Pictures exhibition was unequivocally the "sleeper hit of the season so far... [and] this is photography as one-frame moviemaking. The pictures feature widescreen proportions, high-angle mid-shot compositions, 'classy' cinematographic lighting, punched up color and the look of Method Acting." (Peter Schjeldahl in: Exh. Cat., New York, Skarstedt Fine Art, Cindy Sherman Centerfolds, 2003, p. 33).
To understand why the Centerfolds were so provocative, one must give some thought to the artistic and social climate that bore them. Deliberately using the Playboy magazine format of the centerfold, Sherman pushed the envelope as to what was art and what was photography to such an extent that her images became a fertile battleground for feminist notions of empowerment and sexuality. As Laura Mulvey lamented, "the centerfolds announce themselves as photographs and as in a pinup, the model's eroticism, and her pose, are directed towards the camera, and ultimately the spectator." (Laura Mulvey, "A Phantasmagoria of the Female Body: The Work of Cindy Sherman," A New Left Review 188, July-August 1991, p. 143). With their implied and suggested sexuality in concert with their format, the Centerfolds were a radical departure from Sherman's previous Film Stills. The introduction of shocking color contributed to the heightened drama perceived within the images and the color was deftly combined with the contrast of deep shadows. Dramatically staged lighting, particularly evident in examples such as the present lot 32, Untitled #91, casts a light over the face of the reclining beauty that is seemingly epigamic of her reverie. Roberta Smith pointed out when the Centerfolds made their debut in 1981: "The psychological weight of the work is so direct that at times it seems to free the viewer to see very clearly the formal manipulations which are at its source. Sherman makes you understand the components of photography with a particular bluntness which is one of her trademarks. The roles of color, light, cropping, space, eye contact (or lack of it) is continually stated and restated and we read them just as we do details of clothing, hairdo, posture and flooring. Despite all this the effect is not simply didactic; everything is both laid out and convincingly, ingenuously synthesized." (Roberta Smith, "Review: Cindy Sherman," Village Voice, New York, November 18, 1981).
In that same vein, the Centerfolds as a series are brilliant in their economy. Similar styles, poses and props are employed as engaging visual tropes with decidedly different effects. In lot 33, Untitled #89, for example, an aggressively cropped female figure reclines in obviously tousled sheets. The faint suggestion of sweat across her face and wedding band on her finger invite a reading of marital discord or even shame associated with infidelity. Sheets are also a main prop in Untitled # 93, which at the time, was the most controversial of Centerfolds. In this example, the black bedsheets are pulled up in a manner that suggested the bleary-eyed woman had just been the victim of a rape, whereas Sherman was inspired by "somebody who'd been up all night drinking and had just gone to sleep five minutes before the sun rose and woke her up. So it bothered me at first when people criticized the picture, seeing a side that I hadn't intended. I finally decided it was something I needed to accept." (Cindy Sherman as interviewed by Noriko Fuku, Chika Mori, et. al., eds. Cindy Sherman, Shiga, 1996, p. 161).
It can be argued that the Centerfolds document a powerful ability of an artist to perform, create, document, question and therefore invite a host of engaging and provocative critiques and dialogues within a two-dimensional quietude. Sherman herself describes her process as intuitive, and that she responds to elements of a setting such as light, mood and dress, and explores different scenarios as a director of film. She herself has commented of this process, "I think of becoming a different person. I look into a mirror next to the camera...it's trance-like. By staring into it I try to become that character through the lens...When I see what I want, my intuition takes over - both in the 'acting' and in the editing. Seeing that other person that's up there, that's what I want. It's like magic." Betsy Sussler, "Cindy Sherman," Bomb Magazine Volume 12, Spring 1985, n.p.). When considering the group of Centerfolds in their entirety, the complexity of the staging and self-editing illustrates the profound range that both the actress and the artist maintained at a young age.
Throughout her career, Sherman's imagery has evolved from a myriad of sources including but not limited to movie, TV, magazines, the Internet, and art historical references. At times eloquent, at others profane, Sherman's visual vicissitude harnesses a provocative exploration of contemporary identity and the nature of self - and necessarily other - representation. As her own muse, Sherman's credits include photographer, model, actor, makeup artist, stylist, and hair dresser. The intrigue thus being, who exactly are we seeing, what are we seeing and it is precisely this curiosity that continues to sustain our gaze.