Sherman’s uncanny ability to assume the identity of a multiplicity of characters has long been the central theme in her oeuvre. In each of her photographs, the artist uses a range of costumes, makeup, wigs, and prostheses, and typically employs her own styling, to transform her physical appearance and radically obscure her identity. As seen in the performative aspect of the work, Untitled (#134) is at once a critique of the fashion industry. The degree of contrived artifice and construction of the self through her role-playing in the present work sees Sherman making full use of fashion as a form of masquerade: “Right away I started feeling antagonism from [the French designers], not really liking what I was doing, because they expected me to imitate what I had done in the last series. But I wanted to go on to something new, and since they were going to use these pictures for Paris Vogue, I wanted the work to look really ugly. The clothes were boring and not the ones I had asked to use so I thought I'll just go all out and get really wild. They hated it. And the more they hated it, the more it made me want to do it, and the more outrageous I tried to be.” (Cindy Sherman cited in: Jeanne Siegel, Art Talk: The Early 80s, New York 1988, p. 273).
Since the mid-1970s, Sherman’s body of work has been distinctly influential in shaping the field of contemporary art. The artist’s photographs have been distinguished by her exploration of the myriad ways in which women are represented. Fashion, now and then, is yet another means of masquerade for the consumer, and advertisements for clothes promise to convert the wearer into a more perfect version of themselves. The Fashion series undermine the desirability of such images by emphasising their contrived nature. Untitled (#134) marks a high point in Sherman’s career, questioning, not only the medium of photography but also our wider assumptions about gender, status and identity in the modern world.
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