Mark Kostabi on Cindy Sherman
When I first moved to New York in January 1982, my favorite new artists were Cindy Sherman, Walter Robinson and Robert Longo, all of whom showed at Metro Pictures. I intuitively felt they embodied the new, fresh essence of ’80s art, a kind of “flashcard art”—quick, instantly accessible images which also retained a seductive and ambiguous mystery.
Cindy Sherman’s “Film Stills” and Robert Longo’s “Men in Cities” ended up becoming unmistakable icons. Walter Robinson veered off into art criticism and became the brilliant editor of Artnet Magazine at artnet.com.
In her small, seductive and much celebrated, black-and-white “Film Stills,” Cindy Sherman photographed herself as numberous different characters in no-existent movies representing familiar genres. Since then she’s done strange remakes of paintings from art history, featuring herself in elaborate costumes and make-up; extremely nasty, large color images of maggot-ridden vomit; bulging pimples and twisted sexual perversions. A recent series of drawing-like, medium-sized, grainy black-and-white photos are images of distressed plastic dolls doing not-so-subtle sexual things to each other.
Her latest work, on view at Metro Pictures, is a series of color portraits. Sherman poses women ravished by the darker side of the entertainment industry and their own distorted notions of beauty. These humorous and poignant portraits convey a sense of spent youth—a sense of not having “made it.” We are left with remnants of meager and decadent existences.
Sherman is one of the great self-photographers, along with Lucas Samaras, Hannah Wilke, Luigi Ontani, John Coplans, Mariko Mori, Yasumasa Morimura and—get ready Chelsea— Chiara, from Rome, who will debut here in early 2001. These artists are all performers, who use their faces and/or bodies as stages. In Sherman’s case, she leaves the prosthetic noses, fake eyebrows and artificial breasts obviously forged, undermining the believability of the carefully suggested narrative and forcing the viewer to confront the staged aspect of the work.
Up next at Metro Pictures in January—the other ’80s icon: Robert Longo