• Alexandra Graff

Nostalgic for the new, Cindy Sherman at Sprüth Magers

Updated: Mar 14, 2019

Alexandra notes aspects of Cindy Sherman's "Untitled #583."

The slight uneasiness of the current Cindy Sherman show at Sprüth Magers Gallery in Berlin seems appropriate at the present moment, with women’s bodies circulating on social media platforms and in conversations now more than ever. In a white cube aesthetic, Sherman’s newest body of work (2016) gives a larger than life presence in the gallery. Printed on metal, each photograph depicts an aging woman dressed in 1930s and ‘40s glamour staring down at viewers, looking like an actress in an epic film from Hollywood’s golden era; one that you once knew, but now can’t quite put a name to the face. Designed to resemble past stars, Sherman uses herself as the model, aligning with her signature style. Indeed, this isn’t even the first time Sherman has evoked the film theme. Early in her career, Sherman produced a series of black-and-white, film noir-style images, titled “Untitled Film Stills.” Like her other works, this new body is similarly unnamed.

Sherman’s age gives her away; now in her, 60s she does more than look like an actress trying to hold on to her former fame. (Imagine “Valley of the Dolls” but a few decades earlier.) Is there a comment to be made here about an artist holding on to her former self? Or maybe the style is timeless; not the costume, but rather the procedure; the costuming of oneself.  And she’s not one to shy away from the political. One could easily discover an overt statement about ageism in the works. Likelier, it’s a subtler attempt at addressing the all-consuming experience of aging.

There’s something quite eerie and distorted about these photographs though. Backgrounds are blurred and over exposed. Some are too vivid, with lines too structured – like someone’s gone overboard with Instagram filters. In fact, many of her photographs in this collection could easily be imagined to have appeared on the social media site, where images are purposefully altered. Indeed, she’s again tampering with the idea of altering perceptions – yet in a medium more accessible to her age and fine art world locale. The colors, highlighted by the distortions, give off a very painterly effect; when viewed from across the room, the works would be easy to mistake for paintings. Up close, however, the works are distantly digital and highly contemporary.

Most interestingly, however, is that this presentation is not intentional of the artist herself. In fact, this is the last time this body of her work will be shown together, as a complete series. It’s unclear how the photographs would operate independently, as their relationship to each other seems like a vital component to their sense of completion. Alone, the effect might get lost; together the connection is clear. It’s not just several past actresses reliving their former fame; it’s the same actress again and again, or rather, the same artist. That nostalgia quality is sneakily apparent. But it’s funny to feel nostalgic about something you’re accustomed to seeing on Instagram on a nearly daily basis.

Cindy Sherman's newest series of works will be on display at Sprüth Magers Berlin until April 8, 2017.

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