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Cindy Sherman

Untitled, 1994

Photograph | C-Print
127 x 84 cm

Sherman’s photos represent an essential change that took place in the 80s: despite maintaining the 70s’ proposition of a non-sellable art, she turned her photographs into market products. In fact, she is a performer who uses photography from a conceptual standpoint, being both the model and author of the work at the same time: the most important factor isn’t the act of taking the picture, but what precedes the act itself, the intentionality within it, even if it finally turns out to be a product that is not only framed and exhibited, but numbered and sold. Anyhow, if it is true that Sherman’s work brings up a proposition that comes close to gender issues – due to the fact that, in her work, she reveals the tangential point between the woman as object and subject-, it is no less true that due to this peculiar characteristic, the artist at times feels that her images are too attractive, and that upon buying them, a collector takes home both the work, and the artist.

As a result, from the 90s onward, Sherman’s works became the logical consequence of this suspicion. From snapshots of food leftovers she made in the 80s –which included simulations of vomit-, which critics have linked to the concept of “the abject” in Kristeva – that which disturbs order, the system-, Sherman chose to subvert the stereotypes of women she had created throughout a decade and which had, at the same time, become another type of stereotype.

It was at this point when, after a decade of using a language that came close to that of the media as a false mirror to promote alienating identifications and thus denounce the media itself, Sherman turned her eyes to more radical strategies, where she finally even disappeared as a model, replacing the human presence with inanimate beings such as dolls or masks – as in Masks (1994-95). This series culminated in a process that is half way between the grotesque and the gothic, a certain systematic search for the anti-canonical, as an antidote for the stereotypes that her anti-stereotypes had generated. It is a strategy that gradually developed during earlier years, and, more specifically, through series such as History Portraits (1988-90) – which were stagings of portraits of excess in the style of the old masters- and Sex Pictures (1992) – whose pornography resides in the use of obscene mannequins. Finally, in Horror and Surrealist Pictures (1994-96), bodies disintegrate, proposing a ghostly game that somehow already appeared in this photograph. Here, female stereotypes have been stretched, and this ambiguous, androgynous, even masculine, character, has been exacerbated, through a gothic and horrific image of its face covered, once again, with a sort of mask. They are elements of the strategy of attack and annihilation that Sherman uses against the imposed canons of female beauty she has been trying to expose throughout the years.

Estrella de Diego


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