Cindy Sherman (b. 1954)
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Cindy Sherman (b. 1954)

Untitled (#276), 1993

Cindy Sherman (b. 1954)
Untitled (#276), 1993
chromogenic print, flush-mounted on board
signed, dated and numbered '6/6' in ink with affixed titled, dated and numbered '6/6' Metro Pictures gallery label (flush mount, verso)
image/sheet/flush mount: 80 x 60in. (203.2 x 152.5cm.)
This work is number 6 from the edition of 6.
Metro Pictures, New York.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1993.
R. Krauss, Cindy Sherman: 1975-1993, New York 1993 (another example from the edition illustrated in colour, p. 234).
London, Serpentine Gallery, Cindy Sherman, 2003 (another from the edition exhibited, illustrated in colour, p. 81). This exhibition later travelled to Edinburgh, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, 2003-2004.
Paris, Galerie Nationale du Jeu de Paume, Cindy Sherman, 2006-2007 (another from the edition exhibited, illustrated in colour, p. 252). This exhibition later travelled to Bregenz, Kunsthaus Bregenz, Humlebaek, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art and Berlin, Martin-Gropius-Bau.
New York, Museum of Modern Art, Cindy Sherman, 2012 (another from the edition exhibited, illustrated, p. 132). This exhibition later travelled to San Francisco, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Minneapolis, Walker Art Center and Dallas, Dallas.
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Further details
In the early 1990s Cindy Sherman, returned in her work to the subject of masquerading. Untitled #276 has the sense of being an art history appropriation gone wrong in that her character is slightly too old and undignified for the renaissance genre. This work can also be understood as making reference to the conscious staging of her images by use of a more obvious prostheses than in her earlier photographs. Here, history is not exempt from her critique of the multitude of identity stereotypes in society.

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Francis Outred
Francis Outred

Lot Essay

Clutching three long-stemmed lilies, her long blonde hair flowing beneath a coronet of opalescent gems, a model gazes regally out of Untitled #276. Yet, at second glance, the glamorous tropes of high fashion – exclusive garments showcased on angular bodies, flattered by soft lighting and refined settings – fragment into a pastiche of parody and cliché. In this work, Cindy Sherman, photographer and model, artist and muse, hijacks the mythology of fashion – its beautification of reality, its incitement to dream. The supermodel, a superhuman construct, shows her artificiality in Sherman’s iteration: her make-up impenetrable, her hair luxuriantly fake, her brown stockings slipping down over her legs. First coming to prominence in the 1970s with her series of Untitled Film Stills, Sherman has, in each subsequent series of photographs, imitated and confronted the visual evidence of modern life, exploring the myriad ways in which women and their bodies are depicted by contemporary image-makers.

Created in 1993, this photograph forms part of Sherman’s ‘Fashion’ series, in which she dissects the crucial myth of modern culture, that the path to metamorphosis lies through consumption. Representative of a key motif in the artist’s work, an edition of this photograph was exhibited in the major retrospective, titled Cindy Sherman, held at the Museum of Modern Art, New York in 2012. In this series, originally destined for the glossy pages of Harper’s Bazaar, Sherman presents elegant clothing, accompanied by a phantasmagoric variety of props, wigs and accessories sourced from her own wardrobe. In each of the photographs, these ensembles are subsequently debased through being worn by exuberantly lurid caricatures: disconsolate drunks, bohemian junkies, a literal scarecrow. Untitled #276 features a grotesque figure, whose very presence within the conventions of fashion parodies the rigid criteria of slenderness, youth and beauty this industry imposes on its models, and by extension, on its whole audience. ‘The world is so drawn toward beauty,’ Sherman described this reversal, ‘that I became interested in things that are normally considered grotesque or ugly, seeing them as more fascinating and beautiful. Also, I like making images that from a distance seem kind of seductive, colourful, luscious and engaging, and then you realise what you are looking at is something totally opposite. It seems boring to me to pursue the typical idea of beauty, because that is easiest or most obvious way to see the world. It’s more challenging to look at the other side’ (C. Sherman, quoted in Her Bodies: Cindy Sherman & Vanessa Beecroft, Arario Gallery, Cheonan, 2004, p. 35).

In Untitled #276, Sherman explores the dark side of superficiality: evoking the vogue of style and the glamour of appearance, her take on the aspirational image does not conceal the brutality of a marketplace which trades in human identity. In every one of her photographs, the artist has consistently investigated this prevalence of pretence and fabrication, of staging and simulation. Yet her images themselves are profoundly untrue: Sherman radically relocates the medium of photography, from the realm of honesty and transparency staked out for photo-reportage, into a universe of absolute fiction. In her photographs, Sherman is not documenting herself, or any aspect of her identity, as she explained: ‘I don’t feel that I am that person. I may be thinking about a certain story or situation, but I don’t become her. There’s this distance. The image in the mirror becomes her – the image the camera gets on the film. And the one thing I’ve always known is that the camera lies’ (C. Sherman, quoted in G. Marzorati, ‘Imitation of Life’ in Art News, September 1983, p. 81). In each of her images, Sherman morphs, chameleon-like, through a glossary of pose and gesture, expression and appearance, none of which shine a light onto the artist’s inner world. Instead, Untitled #276 functions both as a performance of a ubiquitous image, and the photographic record of a performance. In this way, Sherman underscores the artificiality and staging of mass media and popular culture, creating an image redolent with subversive power.

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