The selection reflects a recurring trait of the dark, grotesque and base – the abject, as it was called in 1980s art theory. We sense references to film noir or splatter movies, wicked fairytales and potential violence. But the horror and outrage are in the eye of the beholder – there is no sex, for instance, in Sherman’s Sex Pictures, no nudity in her Centerfolds. The motifs are captivating and take us by surprise, they strike up a primordial fear in us; her artistic method is distinctly related to surrealistic ideas of reaching beyond the conscious, rational self.
Untitled #96, 1981
© Cindy Sherman. Courtesy the artist and Metro Pictures, New York.
Cindy Sherman (born 1954 in the USA) belongs to a generation of postmodern artists whose work is primarily conceptual, and who deny the supremacy of the original or the existence of absolute truth. She chose photography at a time when painting was the dominating medium, and she was influenced by the conceptualism of the late 1970s and 1980s, moving images and performance art. The roles she takes on in her works, ranging from female stereotypes to symbiotic combinations of man and animal or machine, can be at once disturbing and comical. Genres from art history and photography, whether they be history painting, fashion photography or pornography, are manipulated. But Sherman’s intention is never to create a convincing illusion; she combines familiar elements into new constellations to disarm obvious interpretations. Cindy Sherman’s works have reached an incomparably wide audience, and are iconic to a number of prominent art theorists and feminists.