On the 6th floor of the Museum of Modern Art, Cindy Sherman is just where you want her, everywhere. In a retrospective of her work that opened Sunday, in every portrait, her image -- made up, masked, reconfigured -- shocks, satirizes, surprises with its smart take on contemporary looks, fashion, and ideas of what it means to be visible: portraits from every period in her career, from black and white film stills evoking no particular picture specifically, to the clown series, to the more recent grand portraits of be-pearled and head-banded Park Avenue matrons with enigmatic and sad Mona Lisa smiles or smirks suggesting dubious delight, dismay and possible disgust. Ladies locked in luxury.
During one famed stage Sherman did a fashion spread commissioned by Vogue. Wearing vermillion Balenciaga she looks shleppy, wig, eye shadow and hair akimbo. At another she stopped using herself as subject -- although I hesitate to call her self as blank canvas merely that -- and fused the groins of mannequins in hermaphroditic spectacle. In another she created a colorful and textured landscape of vomit and excrement. Oooow! You must check it out.
A giant, eight feet high mural at the entrance utilizing newer technologies shows how photography manipulates image and identity through image today. In an interview with John Waters published in the fine catalogue that accompanies the show, Sherman explains her process on these manifestations of her self objectified, "I didn't use any makeup, because I thought these were more like studies. But then I started changing the faces digitally to slightly alter them, so it's kind of like using Photoshop instead of makeup... [T]he eyes may be closer together, or higher up, or smaller. Or I'll flesh out the cheeks more. I see them as all related, but they have different wigs and these weird costumes."
At last Tuesday's opening, the densely packed rooms resembled a parade of fashionistas and other art types passing before the photographs, a strange counterpoint. Blending in, Lou Reed, Laurie Anderson, Michael Stipe, Eric Bogosian, Debbie Harry, Molly Ringwald, Ralph Gibson, Eric Fishl, April Gornick, and Chuck Close in his specially fitted wheelchair, made their way around gabbing and gazing.
Remembering a gala to benefit East Hampton's Guild Hall a few years ago, where Sherman wore a sea green printed Prada dress that was mirrored by a guest, another blond in Prada, we wanted to see what she would wear to an event of this magnitude. Every type was represented here; but, where was Cindy Sherman?
When asked what she learned about the artist in collaborating on the exhibition, curator Eva Respini responded, she's so nice.
A version of this post also appears on Gossip Central.