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Untitled Film Still, #25

Untitled Film Still, #25
signed, numbered and dated 'Cindy Sherman 1978 2/3' (on a label affixed to the backing board)
gelatin silver print
image: 28 ¾ x 40in. (73 x 101.5cm.)
overall: 37 ¾ x 66 1/8in. (96 x 168cm.)
Executed in 1978, this work is number two from an edition of three

Another work from the edition is in the collection of Glenstone Foundation, Potomac.
Bob van Orsouw, Zurich.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in March 1993.
P. Schjeldahl and E. Barents, Cindy Sherman, Munich 1987, no. 19 (illustrated, p. 59).
R. Krauss, Cindy Sherman, 1975-1993, New York 1993, p. 225 (illustrated, p. 48).
D. Frankel (ed.), The Complete Untitled Film Stills Cindy Sherman, New York 2003, p. 72 (illustrated, p. 73).
Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum, Cindy Sherman, 1982, no. 19 (another example exhibited, illustrated, p. 55).
Los Angeles, The Museum of Contemporary Art, Cindy Sherman Retrospective, 1997-1998, p. 197, no. 26 (another from the edition exhibited, illustrated, p. 70). This exhibition later travelled to Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art; Prague, Rudolfnum;
London, Barbican Art Gallery; Bordeaux, Musée d’Art Contemporain de Bordeaux; Sydney, Museum of Contemporary Art and Toronto, Art Gallery of Ontario.
Los Angeles, Regen Projects, Richard Prince Women, 2004, no. 25 (another from the edition exhibited, illustrated, unpaged).
Paris, Jeu de Paume, Cindy Sherman, 2006, pp. 32 and 240 (another from the edition exhibited, illustrated, pp. 43 and 241). This exhibition later travelled to Bregenz, Kunsthaus Bregenz; Humlebæk, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art and Berlin, Martin-Gropius-Bau.
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Pictures Generation, 1974-1984, 2009, p. 327, no. 94 (another from the edition exhibited, illustrated, p. 140).
New York, The Museum of Modern Art, Cindy Sherman, 2012, p. 241 (another from the edition exhibited, illustrated, p. 112).
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Annemijn van Grimbergen
Annemijn van Grimbergen

Lot Essay

As if capturing the climactic moment of a film noir, Cindy Sherman’s Untitled Film Still, #25, 1978, introduces a lone woman looks apprehensively into the distance, peering at a character or scene just beyond our vision. Performing as both protagonist and director, Sherman lures the viewer into the composition, introducing a plethora of possible narratives. The work forms part of Sherman’s Untitled Film Stills, which stand as the most important series in the artist’s early practice. In the sixty-nine images which comprise the series, Sherman creates a world in which anonymous women are captured in ambiguous moments. Presenting the figure in a voyeuristic moment, this quality is enhanced by the vantage point she creates, which engenders her viewer to feel like a voyeur themselves on the scene. As Sherman notes of works such as Untitled, ‘Some of the women in the outdoor shots could be alone, or being watched or followed – the shots I would choose were always the ones in-between the action. These women are on their way to wherever the action is (or to their doom)... or have just come from a confrontation (or tryst)’ (C. Sherman, ‘The Making of Untitled’, in The Complete Untitled Film Stills, New York 2003, p. 9). Editions of Untitled Film Still, #25 have been exhibited extensively, first in her solo exhibition at the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam in 1982, as well at her comprehensive travelling retrospective first held at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles in 1997-1998 and most recently at the Museum of Modern Art, New York in 2012.

The Untitled Film Stills from the late 1970s were influential in the field of photography and contemporary art for their engagement with ideas surrounding identity and constructed reality. Prompting notions of the uncanny in their strangely familiar yet undoubtedly ambiguous compositions, Sherman’s series presents the artistic self through imagery suggestive of film, television and media in a way that critiques modernist assumptions and societal constructs. And yet in a post-modern twist, the Untitled Film Stills do not exist as appropriations of ‘original’ films – they exist in the peculiar state of feeling like a copy from which no original exists.

This simulcral tendency is amplified in the Untitled Film Stills through Sherman’s deft play of female stereotypes. Using a host of detritus acquired by the artist over many years, Sherman weaves together an elaborate persona whose identity, though familiar, is never explicit. Construing scenes that are evocative of 1960s and 1960s films, Sherman mined stereotypes in compellingly persuasive narratives or visual codes, drawing from a trove of filmic practices – lighting, cropping, framing, and camera angle – as well as bodily conventions--clothing, gestures, and poses. Indeed Sherman references the influence of European cinema on the creation of her art: ‘I was mostly going for the look of European as opposed to Hollywood types,’ she later explained. ‘I liked the Hitchcock look, Antonioni, Neorealist stuff. What I didn’t want were pictures showing strong emotion. It was European film stills that I’d find women who were more neutral. If the emotional quotient was too high--the photograph would seem campy’ (C. Sherman, ‘The Making of Untitled’, in The Complete Untitled Film Stills, New York 2003, pg. 8).

And indeed, much of the success and palpable intrigue inherent in imagery such as Untitled Film Still, #25 can be found in the tension Sherman establishes between our immediate recognition of a reference or stereotype and the creation of a space onto which we can project our own imagination. ‘The stills are dense with suspense and danger’, Arthur Danto stated, ‘and they all look as if they were directed by Alfred Hitchcock. The invariant subject is The Girl in Trouble, even if The Girl herself does not always know it...The girl is always alone, waiting, worried, watchful, but she is wary of, waiting for, worried about, and her very posture and expression phenomenologically imply The Other: the Stalker, the Saver, the Evil and Good who struggle for her possession’ (A. Danto, quoted in Cindy Sherman: Untitled Film Stills, New York, 1990, p. 13).

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