Overview

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Details
Cindy Sherman (b. 1954)
Untitled #90
signed, numbered and dated 'Cindy Sherman 9/10 1981' (on a paper label affixed to the reverse)
chromogenic print
24 x 48 in. (60.9 x 121.9 cm.)
Executed in 1981. This work is number nine from an edition of ten.
Provenance
Metro Pictures, New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner
Literature
P. Schjeldahl and I. M. Danoff, Cindy Sherman, New York, 1984, no. 57 (another example illustrated).
P. Schjeldahl and L. Phillips, Cindy Sherman, New York, 1987, no. 57 (another example illustrated).
M. Meneguzzo, Cindy Sherman, Milan, 1990, p. 39 (another example illustrated).
R. Krauss, Cindy Sherman 1975-1993, p. 92 (another example illustrated).
P. Moorhouse, Cindy Sherman, London, 2014, pp. 66-67 (another example illustrated).
Exhibited
Sacramento, Crocker Art Museum; Las Vegas, University of Nevada, Nevada Institute for Contemporary Art; La Jolla Museum of Contemporary Art; Fort Wayne Museum of Art; Rockford Art Museum; Boise Gallery of Art and Tucson Museum of Art, The Smorgon Family Collection of Contemporary American Art, 1985, p. 57, no. 21 (another example exhibited and illustrated).
Melbourne, National Gallery of Victoria, A Constructed Reality: Aspects of Contemporary Photography, 1991-1992 (another example exhibited).
Hamburg, Deichtorhollen;Kunsthalle Malmo and Kunstmuseum Lucerne, Cindy Sherman: Photoarbeiten 1975-1995, May 1995-February 1996, no. 41 (another example exhibited and illustrated).
Los Angeles, The Museum of Contemporary Art; Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art; Prague, Galerie Rudolfinum; London, Barbican Art Gallery; CAPC Musée d'Art Contemporain de Bordeaux; Sydney, Museum of Contemporary Art and Toronto, Art Gallery of Ontario, Cindy Sherman: Retrospective, 1998-2000, p. 103, pl. 74 (another example exhibited and illustrated).
Paris, Jeu de Paume; Kunsthaus Bregenz; Humlebaek, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art and Berlin, Martin-Gropius-Bau, Cindy Sherman, May 2006-September 2007, n.p. (another example exhibited and illustrated).
New York, The Museum of Modern Art, Cindy Sherman, February-June 2012, pp. 146-147 (another example exhibited and illustrated).

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Alex Berggruen
Alex Berggruen

Lot Essay

"Sherman’s women are not women but images of women, specular models of femininity projected by the media to encourage imitation, identification; they are, in other words, tropes, figures." (C. Owens, quoted in E. Respini, “Will the Real Cindy Sherman Please Stand Up?”, Cindy Sherman, exh. cat, Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2012, p. 24)

Untitled #90 is an example of Cindy Sherman’s early series of color photographs. This bold, enticing image builds on the tropes and treatments of Sherman’s breakthrough black-and-white Untitled Film Stills of the preceding years. With a critical eye toward the nature of print media and magazine advertorials, this image dispatches with cinematic setting in favor of psychological tension and human emotion. The series to which this belongs marks only the second use of color photography in Sherman’s career, and comes from a series which has become known as her Centerfolds, as they were originally commissioned by then Editor-in-Chief of Artforum, Ingrid Sischy, for inclusion in a special section in the magazine.

Expanding in scale from her previous tableaux, Untitled #90 finds Sherman’s character filling the composition in a crumpled lavender robe. As she stares despondently at a white rotary phone while in repose on a tan leather couch, one can only imagine the call that may or may never come. A soft glow of lamplight off frame illuminates dark bags under the woman’s eyes, as well as the synthetic weave of her tousled, flattened wig. All of the example of the Centerfold series impart a sense of vulnerable inward consciousness. Each anticipates that something is about to happen. This implied anticipation derives from the master of suspense, Alfred Hitchcock, who knew how to tease the viewer by delaying the exposure of the potential threat, thereby causing the subject to look inward to question whether the threat exists before the event occurs.

The reclining pose Sherman has chosen is reminiscent of those used in fashion spreads, beauty advertisements, and men’s magazines. Stretched across a published double page, this composition would have suffered from a binding crease, making the subject pucker and fold. In this final image, however, Sherman’s expertise at creating atmosphere and character shines through. Realized the year following her Rear Screen Projections series (another device borrowed from Hitchcock) of 1980 (her initial experiment with color imagery), Untitled #90 and its encompassing series do away with obvious pretense in favor of a more direct, beseeching image that appeals to the viewer while simultaneously keeping them at arm’s length.

Sherman is a conceptual chameleon who is adept at adapting herself into the many roles her works require. Ceasing to be merely portraits of the artist, Sherman’s photographs accentuate and interrogate the very ways in which women have been depicted in film, the media, and art history.

Widely regarded as one of the key figures of the Pictures Generation, Sherman is a master of composition and subtle manipulation. Her interest in the construction of character and identity in media culture at large forced a reconsideration of the portrayal of women in art and advertisement, and has influenced contemporary artists to the present day. Untitled #90 is a standout of Sherman’s early career, and paved the way for her ongoing investigation into the nature of female representation.

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