As Gucci Museo, Florence, unveils their latest exhibition Cindy Sherman: Early Works, writer Emily Steer considers the artist’s feminist sensibilities.
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The art world’s favourite chameleon might have one of the most recognisable names out there, but still has one of the trickiest faces to identify. Over her 40 plus year career, she has embodied the changing face of female America, from dolled up film heroine to beaten about housewife. Her agility in slipping between genres and characters can be seen as a sign of the female ability to fit whatever is requested of them by society, in work that is (albeit not of the obvious bra burning variety) deeply feminist. Her work exists primarily as fake film stills, building an easily identifiable falsity to her characters, that also heightens the absurd notion of each female generalisation and cliche she takes on.
Sherman herself, if the public Sherman is indeed herself, is immaculately dressed and groomed and her upcoming partnership with Gucci Museo in Florence, the museum of fashion giant Gucci, can be seen as a further statement on her work. In amongst the strong social agenda at work in her art, there is quite clearly also the conflict faced by many women who see that there is more to femininity than sitting about looking pretty, but who still take pleasure in indulging in their appearance. This reveals her as a thinker before her time, as the will to take on every complex aspect of womanhood is a pretty recent understanding of feminism.
Rather than leap on the well known creations of the established Sherman years, curator Francesca Amfitheatrof has chosen to show work created in 1975 and 1976, when her ideas were just forming. Animated film Doll’s Clothes features Sherman as a cut out, dressing up, and Bus Riders shows Sherman as everyday American bus users, both male and female. Murder Mystery People holds the roots of where her work was to go, with black and white shots of a has-been actress who has fallen for her film director. Both Murder Mystery People and Bus Riders are pared right back, simply showing Sherman in character against a blank white wall and displaying quite how able she is at morphing from person to person, revealing her primarily as a performance artist, despite her filmmaking background. These two original sets of images were lost, so the works shown now are in fact reprints, adding yet another layer to Sherman’s recreated version of her stock characters’ reality.
Cindy Sherman: Early Works is showing at Gucci Museo, Piazza della Signoria, Florence from 10th January - 9th June 2013.
Text: Emily Steer
From left: Pictures 1 and 2: Cindy Sherman Untitled (Bus Riders I), 1976-2000. Black and white photograph, 25.4 x 20.3 cm. Courtesy of the Artist and Metro Pictures © Cindy Sherman. Pictures 3 and 6:Doll Clothes, 1975 16-mm film transferred to DVD Black and white, silent 2:22 min, loop © Cindy Sherman. Pictures 4, 5 and 7: Cindy Sherman Untitled (Murder Mystery People), 1976-2000. Black and white photograph, 25.4 x 20.3 cm. Courtesy of the Artist and Metro Pictures © Cindy Sherman.