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A Century of Art: The Gerald Fineberg Collection


gelatin silver print
38 x 30 in. (96.5 x 76.2 cm.)
Executed in 1978. This work is number two from an edition of two.
Rick Wester Fine Art, New York
Private collection, New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner, 2007
"Cindy Sherman: Untitled Film Stills," Paris Review, no. 82, 1982, p. 136 (another edition illustrated).
P. Schjeldahl, Cindy Sherman, New York, 1984, p. 39, no. 13 (another edition illustrated).
A. D'Hooghe, "Cindy Sherman: Qui est cette Femme?," Clichés, no. 31, 1986, p. 48 (another edition illustrated).
C. Sherman, CS: Cindy Sherman, Tokyo, 1987, p. 23 (another edition illustrated).
A. C. Danto, Untitled Film Stills: Cindy Sherman, New York, 1990, n.p., no. 13 (another edition illustrated).
R. Krauss and N. Bryson, Cindy Sherman 1973-1993, New York, 1993, p. 65 (another edition illustrated).
J-C. Fleury, "Cindy Sherman: Portrait d'une Inconnue," Camera International, no. 40, Summer 1995, n.p., no. 15 (another edition illustrated).
Z. Felix and M. Schwander, Cindy Sherman: Photographic Work 1975-1995, Munich, 1995, np. (illustrated)
A. Adato, "Camera at Work," Life Magazine, May 1996, p. 124 (another edition illustrated).
D. Frankel, ed., Cindy Sherman: The Complete Untitled Film Stills, New York, 2003, pp. 30-31 (another edition illustrated).
D. Anfam, Cindy Sherman, London, 2014, pp. 46 and 142, no. 27 (illustrated).
Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum of Modern Art, Cindy Sherman, 1982, no. 13 (illustrated, another edition exhibited).
St. Etienne, France, Musee d'Art et d'Industrie, Cindy Sherman, 1983-1984, p. 9 (illustrated, another edition exhibited).
Phoenix Art Museum, Altered Egos: Samaras, Sherman, Wegman, January-February 1986, no. 9 (another edition exhibited).
New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, Cindy Sherman, July-October 1987, no. 13 (illustrated, another edition exhibited).
Milan, Padiglione d'Arte Contemporanea, Cindy Sherman, 1990, p. 22 (illustrated, another edition exhibited).
Kunsthalle Basel; Munich, Staatsgalerie Moderner Kunst and London, Whitechapel Art Gallery, Cindy Sherman, March-September 1991, p. 16 (illustrated, another edition exhibited).
Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Monterrey, Becher, Mapplethorpe, Sherman, 1992, no. 4 (illustrated, another edition exhibited).
Dublin, Irish Museum of Art, Julião Sarmento and Cindy Sherman: From Beyond the Pale, 1994, no. 31.
New York, Museum of Modern Art, Recent Acquisitions, 1995 (another edition exhibited).
Washington D.C., Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Directions Cindy Sherman: Film Stills, March-June 1995, no. 15 (illustrated, another edition exhibited).
Deichtorhallen Hamburg; Malmö Konsthall and Kunstmuseum Luzern, Cindy Sherman: Photographien 1975-1995, May 1995-February 1996 (another edition exhibited).
Los Angeles, The Broad, Cindy Sherman: Imitation of Life, June-October 2016, pp. 33 and 152, no. 21 (illustrated, another edition exhibited).
New York, The Museum of Modern Art; San Francisco, Museum of Modern Art; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis and Dallas Museum of Art, Cindy Sherman, February 2012-June 2013, pp. 104 and 214, pl. 37 (illustrated, another edition exhibited).

Brought to you by

Kathryn Widing
Kathryn Widing Vice President, Senior Specialist, Head of 21st Century Evening Sale

Lot Essay

One of the most recognizable of Cindy Sherman’s Film Stills, the present example is a work of refinement, skill, and intrigue. A young woman, portrayed by the artist herself, takes a break from a dance lesson and surveys the scene below her. Perched cinematically rather than comfortably on the windowsill, the protagonist’s hand is draped over her leg, emphasizing that this is akin to a modeling shot, rather than something candid. This image, one of the most recognizable works in the history of contemporary photography, marks the beginning of Sherman’s rise to stardom as it evinces that Sherman’s work is not only about mise-en-scène but also technical precision as well. As with much of Sherman’s work, the image becomes a metaphor for the act of looking itself. Sherman’s woman in repose looks through the window just as Sherman looks through a camera. Simultaneously, we gaze upon the scene.

In this admixture of gazes, it is clear how carefully Sherman has composed this emotionally replete scene through careful technical choices. As she relayed to writer Betsy Sussler, “The characters sometimes appear while I set up the lighting. I may go through several different lighting situations until I feel some kind of mood or response to it” (C. Sherman, quoted in B. Sussler, “Cindy Sherman by Betsy Sussler,” BOMB Magazine, April 1, 1985). Here, the window lends gentle light and shadow to the dancer’s graceful body. There is thus a purposeful disjoint between inside and outside, which adds to the prevalent sense in the Film Stills that the women pictured are confined, on the run, or hiding some noirish secret. And, above all, they are beautiful.

As Sherman has perennially insisted, the Film Stills are not about recreating a scene from an existing movie. They are rather artifacts of a career-long examination of how images and stories are generated, especially as they regard women. As art historian Douglas Crimp observes in his landmark “Pictures” essay, which would lend the moniker to the Pictures Generation, “We do not know what is happening in [the Film Stills], but we know for sure that something is happening, and that something is a fictional narrative. We would never take these photographs for being anything but staged” (D. Crimp, “Pictures,” October, Spring 1979, p. 80). In the present work, Sherman makes this staging even more apparent not only with her evocation of dance, but also in the performativity of her/the character’s body as it fills the space of the windowsill. Sherman becomes a performer for the camera’s gaze, not as a passive object, but rather as the director of that gaze.

Yet “staging” is not the same as artificial or fake, and Sherman’s self-reflexive process does not drain her photographs of emotion. The present work could generate empathy for a woman we have not and will never meet. More importantly perhaps, we could consider our own moments of loneliness or need for respite, when we longed to find meaning in our alienation. Moreover, there is no irony in Sherman’s insistence that the female protagonist can take charge of the camera and not be a victim to it.

It has been over 40 years since the creation of the Film Stills, and Sherman’s work is as relevant as ever. As critic Bruce Hainley notes, “Cindy Sherman is one of the rare artists to make something truly coherent out of the times we live in” (B. Hainley, “Cindy Sherman: MOCA Grand Avenue,” Artforum, September 1997). Arguably a star of Sherman’s groundbreaking series, just as it is a foundational photograph in the history of postwar art, Untitled stands out in the increasing proliferation of photography in part because of its rarity, but also by capturing so much in one frame. Sherman has always been more than a recorder of culture. Instead, she is a producer of culture, and she shows us how the codes that comprise our lives are generated. The present work is a portrait of all of us in a lonely, sublime world.

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