Following Cindy Sherman's solo exhibition in 2006 at the Jeu de Paume, Paris and 2018 at Sprüth Magers, London, the Fondation Louis Vuitton, on 23 September 2020, opened its doors to the artist’s retrospective "Cindy Sherman at the Fondation Louis Vuitton”.
UNCOMFORTABLE PARODIES AND CROSSING VIEWS
Review by Zoltan Alexander
“I am always surprised at all the things people read into my photos”
Cindy Sherman at the Fondation Louis Vuitton Paris 2020 / © video by Zoltan Alexander ZOLTAN+MEDIA
Curbed by time and the pandemic’s rolling quarantine, Sherman is eager to return to her regular galleries and museum goings. “I’ve missed seeing art very much. I find looking at it to be informative and inspiring, it helps me to formulate why things work or don’t work.”
If you could, wouldn't you like to return to the past just for a short time? We were settled, happy, people were still reasonably kind to each other and there was no virus turning our lives upside down.
Fall 2020 has many surprises, most significantly in Sherman’s life. Her retrospective at the Fondation Louis Vuitton invites you to Paris from September 2020 to January 2021, to join her in this communal dialogue of self-discovery. Before we walk through the exhibition, for a glimpse, we revisit 2018, Mayfair, London. I am ringing the doorbell at Sprüth Magers.
Sprüth Magers, located in the heart of Mayfair, known for its rigorously curatorial approach to its programme and for an enduring devotion to the German and American artists they represent, the gallery has expanded from its roots in Cologne with other galleries located in Mitte, Berlin, London's Mayfair and the Miracle Mile, just across the road from LACMA in Los Angeles. The internationally acclaimed gallery dedicates to exhibiting the very best in groundbreaking modern and contemporary art. Sprüth Magers currently represents over 60 artists and estates.
In 2003, Sprüth Magers opened in London with Donald Judd, and in 2007, they relocated to the current address at Grafton Street with a selection of new photographs by Andreas Gursky. While the gallery continues to work with well-established artists, they regularly broaden their programmes with emerging artists and the tradition of commissioning new scholarships, creating art books and fostering close relationships with museums and curators worldwide.
In 2018, Sprüth Magers presented Cindy Sherman's exhibition that marked over three decades with the gallery.
FONDATION LOUIS VUITTON PARIS
Back to 2020, 23 September. I am invited to Paris to the opening of "Cindy Sherman at the Fondation Louis Vuitton".
The Foundation, over the entirety of its Frank Gehry-designed halls, spread out over two floors in a space of over 1,500 square meters, has given a sweeping retrospective that mixes a traditional linear survey together with a contextualising group show.
The Foundation presents a career-spanning Cindy Sherman retrospective bringing together some 170 works by the artist produced between 1975 and 2020 – more than 300 images from series including Untitled film stills, Rear Screen Projections, Fashion, History Portraits, Disasters, Headshots, Clowns, Society Portraits, Murals, and Flappers, as well as a new set of images presenting male figures and couples.
"Part of the reason we opened the foundation was to provide opportunities to share the collection with the public." – curator and artistic director of the Fondation Louis Vuitton Suzanne Pagé explains.
"But the reason we are showing Cindy Sherman now is not strictly because of the incredible trove of unseen work the foundation owns, but because the themes that have been coursing through her work from the beginning, such as the aesthetic codification of gender and accelerated commodification of identity, feel more pressing today than ever before."
In a scenography designed in close collaboration with Cindy Sherman, this presentation covers her entire career while also focusing on works she has created since the beginning of the last decade, including a series of very recent and previously unseen works.
To coincide with this retrospective, the Foundation presents Crossing Views, a selection of works from the Foundation's Collection, chosen in collaboration with the artist herself. Echoing her work, the installed artworks are centred on the theme of the portrait and its interpretations across different disciplines and mediums: painting, photography, sculpture, video, installation. Crossing Views brings together French and international artists through some 60 works, many of which are being shown for the very first time at the Foundation.
Cindy Sherman, a pivotal figure in the history of appropriation art, was born in 1954 in Glen Ridge, New Jersey, lives and works in New York. Considered one of the most influential artists of her generation, she came to prominence in the late 1970s with a group of artists known as the Pictures Generation.
Since the late 1970s, she has been photographing herself in roles inspired by mass-media stereotypes, but also real people and art-historical imagery. Her unique quasi-theatrical approach reveals the degree to which these stereotypes are entrenched in the cultural imagination. Sherman's influential, complex oeuvre draws upon cinema, realism and the grotesque, and it is embedded in several postmodern and feminist theories.
Sherman moved to New York in 1977 and soon began working on a series of black-and-white photographs whose conceptual foundations continue to inform her work to this day. Though her Untitled film stills (1977-1980) Sherman showed herself in various cinema-inspired guises and settings. They were not based on specific films or well-known actresses; cracks in the facades of these self-dramatisations revealed their artificiality, and yet these photos still looked like copies. They amounted to an almost encyclopaedic list of female roles in Hollywood films, B-movies, Film Noir and European Auteur cinema of the 1950s and 60s. They represented a challenging commentary on the stereotypical, cinema-derived notions of femininity in viewers' minds.
Her work since then has repeatedly highlighted the degree to which the viewer's gaze is conditioned by various media. Her skilful, often ingenious evocation of such clichés goes hand-in-hand with their undermining. Sherman's Centrefolds (1981) series features uncomfortable parodies of the centrefolds in erotic men's magazines. With Headshots (2000-2002), she captured the contradictory, often desperate self-presentation of an older generation of women who wage contemporary society's fixation on youth and beauty as a war on their own bodies. The Society Portraits (2008) series finds Sherman portraying stereotypical upper-class women against opulent digital backgrounds, their makeup and silicone implants betraying an anxious knowledge that they might have lost the battle with images of status, youth, and beauty.
Another essential facet of Sherman's work is her exploration of the ugly, macabre, and grotesque. Series including Fairy Tales (1985), Sex Pictures (1992), Horror and Surrealist Pictures (1994-1996), but also the Old Masters-inspired History Pictures (1998), the Clowns (2004) body of work and her feature film Office Killer (1997), feature eerie and disturbing imagery that revel with a surprising force in their nightmarish perspective on the world and carefully illuminate the psychological terrain of the abject. Classical fairy-tale and horror merge in theatrical tableaux with reflections on the decay of the human body, the history of violence, the AIDS crisis, and beauty-obsessed pop culture.