The opening party for the riveting Cindy Sherman retrospective at SFMOMA played out like a bit of Where's Waldo for the contemporary cadre. Amidst the elegant installation of photographs shot by Sherman, staged by Sherman, costumed by Sherman, made up by Sherman, and featuring Sherman, where was... Sherman?
Despite Sherman's use of herself as the singular subject for her entire body of work, the petite and pretty Sherman was surprisingly hard to spot amidst the throngs of people looking at her remarkable oeuvre. As the party grew larger, half a dozen platinum blondes received sidelong glances and whispers of, "Is THAT her?" Ironically, Sherman's superlative ability to morph into myriad characters of every age, gender, time, and place for her untitled works meant that she was nearly hiding in plain sight. That is, until the iPhone parade began, and she graciously agreed to be photographed as so-and-so with Cindy Sherman. (Let the Facebook profile pictures be changed!) But the Flickr fortunate were few; it's clear the artist is not going to become an Instagram gal anytime soon.
As soon as the starstruck crowd of highbrow art collectors surrounded her like a preteen flock of Beliebers, she vanished. In plain sight. Right beneath 150 of her portraits. Which is rather like what she does IN her portraits. And left us scrounging for a few comments about her in lieu of a few moments with her. SFMOMA Curator of Photography Sandra Phillips was definitive in her praise. "This show is important because Cindy Sherman is one of the most original and productive artists of our time." Bob Fisher, who collects world-class photography and serves as president of the SFMOMA Board in addition to his day job, has been following her progress for decades. "Sherman's work makes her one of the definitive artists of the latter half of the 20th century. I consider her a conceptual artist who uses photography as a means to record her performances." Love it or not, this show deals with perception, reality, masquerade, artifice, magazine centerfolds, painting, and a whole lot of issues that vibrantly color our lives. It's provocative, playful, and smart.
This retrospective, which was organized by New York MoMA, is doing a roadshow for which this is the first stop. The Sherman show was paired with another opening of a parallel exhibit organized by SFMOMA Curator of Media Arts Rudolf Frieling entitled, "Stage Presence, Theatricality in Art and Media." This exhibit explores the themes of theatricality in contemporary art through forty works, and also poses questions that refract off of the Sherman pieces across the hall. Together, they form a fascinating exploration of self-representation and presentation in a world that is constantly searching for its subject, even if she is standing, being photographed on your iPhone, right over there.
The Sherman exhibit was organized by Curator Eva Respino of MoMA , with collaboration from Erin O'Toole, SFMOMA assistant curator of Photography, with the able assistance of the artist herself. Along Sherman's march: Norah and Norman Stone, SFMOMA Executive Director Neal Benezra with Maria Makela, Linda and Jon Gruber, Austin Hills, Carla Emil and Rich Silverstein, Jeffrey Frankel, Michael Cash, Connie Wolf, Randi Fisher, Nion McEvoy and Leslie Berriman, MoMA's Ramona Banyan and Lucy Geller, Yves Behar and Sabrina Buell, Claudia Wolff, Diana Nelson, Abby Turin and Jonathan Gans, Eve and Harvey Masonek, Jerry Grotsky, Kay and Frank Woods, Margy Boyd, Stanlee Gatti, Amanda Michaels, and many more people who look somewhat like an untitled portrait by Cindy Sherman.
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