Cindy Sherman’s Untitled Film Stills
Miami— February 1, 2021— This month, we feature the seminal work of one of the most esteemed American photographers and most influential living artists: Untitled Film Stills by Cindy Sherman (b.1954). Not a single picture, in fact, but a 70-photograph suite made between 1977 and 1980. This landmark body of work brings to the forefront some aspects of her entire body of work: disguise and theatricality, mystery and voyeurism, melancholy and vulnerability.
In Untitled Film Stills, Sherman herself is in front of the camera. Through mise-en-scène and movie-like makeup and costume, Sherman treats each photograph as a portrait, though never one of herself. She embodies her characters even if only for the image itself. Inspired by 1950’s and 1960’s Hollywood, B Movies, film noir, as well as European art-house films, the series depicts clichés of feminine types, such as the chic starlet at her seaside hideaway (#7), the luscious librarian (#13), the domesticated sex kitten (#14), the hot-blooded woman of the people (#35), the ice-cold sophisticate (#50), and others. She stopped, she explained, when she ran out of clichés.
Raised in the 1950s, among the first artists to come of age in the era of television and mass media, Sherman is part of the “pictures generation,” making works that combine Pop and Conceptualism. The group, named after a seminal exhibition held at Artists Space in New York in 1977 and titled – indeed – “Pictures,” shared a common imagery borrowed from television, advertising, and the movie industry. Finding expression in a wide range of styles and techniques, they were united by the same vocabulary and approach toward mass culture – partly humorous, partly critical.
Widely seen as one of the most original and influential achievements in recent art, Untitled Film Stills interrogate the construction of women’s images in films and the way mass media reflects and perpetuates stereotypes in our culture. In Untitled Film Still (#61), presented in our 2021 Winter Show, Sherman frames herself through a doorway, with a composition that implies a viewer looking at her–placing the viewer in the role of unwitting voyeur.
Sherman’s Untitled Film Stills, for which she purposely developed the film in hotter-than-normal chemicals to make them look cracked, cheap, and grainy, like promotional giveaways, are now considered landmarks of late 20th-century art. In 1995, MoMA bought the entire series from the artist, and presented a solo exhibition dedicated to it two years later. “She’s undoubtedly one of the most influential artists of our time,” said Eva Respini, the associate curator of photography at MoMA, who organized Sherman’s retrospective in 2012.
Witty, provocative, and searching, Sherman’s images have become some of the most valuable photographs ever produced. By manipulating viewers and recasting her own identity, Sherman carved out a new place for photography in fine art.
Email us to schedule a visit Tresart’s Winter Show On view until February 28, 2021 Artists Included: Katherine Bernhardt, Claudio Castillo, Eddie Martinez, Nicolas Party, Cindy Sherman, Josh Smith, Mickalene Thomas, Adriana Varejão, and Jonas Wood.
Images: A selection of the Untitled Film Stills series by Cindy Sherman courtesy of Christie’s (Top) and Untitled Film Still #61. Tresart.