Cindy Sherman

Cindy Sherman, Senza titolo 299, 1994. Collezione privata, Napoli. In comodato a Madre · museo d’arte contemporanea Donnaregina, Napoli. Foto © Amedeo Benestante. | Cindy Sherman, Untitled 299, 1994. Private collection, Naples. On loan to Madre · museo d’arte contemporanea Donnaregina, Napoli. Photo © Amedeo Benestante.

Cindy Sherman (Glen Ridge, 1954) approaches photography with a performative attitude, though her shots are not a simple record of performances. Her meticulously posed scenes are created to be photographed and are closely bound up with the linguistic code peculiar to the medium: composition, format, framing and the expressive use of shadows and colors.

Untitled Film Stills (1977-80) presented a cycle in small format (exhibited also in Naples at the Galleria Lia Rumma), in which the artist played female roles typical of the 1950s and 1960s taken from the American cinema or Italian neorealism. Sherman reclaims the schemes of filmic communication, represented as “poses” from imaginary movies, rendered strangely familiar by the typical situations depicted and the appearance of the stars, always personified by the artist. These features already foreshadowed the thematic motifs of her research: the use of disguise, the parodying of stereotypes imposed on women by society, the use of images borrowed from shared media imagery, the imitation of linguistic codes belonging to subcultures, the estrangement of the locations.

With the subsequent photographic series, starting from the hallucinatory and almost aniconic Disasters (1985-89), in which the “abject” (Julia Kristeva) is wedded to the baroque, and organic dissolution is associated with deformity: repellent images of what is discovered to be food but seems at first sight to be the wretched remains of a tragedy. An aesthetic of the fragment made absolute and perpetuated in the frame of the work that prepared for the inorganic breakthrough of Sex Pictures (1992), in which the artist freely combines pornographic material, medical implants and inflatable machines, assembling them all in incongruous ways: traces that become the manifestations of a hysterical language of the body, reduced to prostheses to be reinvented and reassembled.

In the celebrated History Portraits (1988-90), the artist retraces classical portraiture, embodying imaginary models taken from the history of figurative painting in deliberately artificial and caricatured ways. In the series of Clowns (2003-04), the use of digital photography makes it possible to create brightly colored grounds with montages of numerous figures on them, summarizing and condensing the carnival dimension of Sherman’s work and all that is contradictory and excessive in it.

The work in the collection, Untitled 299 (1994), is from a series created by the artist for Comme des Garçons, which deliberately shatters and subverts the iconic codes peculiar to fashion photography. Moreover, fashion is the domain of an exchange between the projection of the self and codes of appearance. Sherman defunctionalizes the rules, producing disturbing and sometimes morbid images, in sharp contrast with the dominant practice of the specialist press. As always, the artist stages a myriad of alter-egos, an existential artistic journey through all possible identities, a working method that she shares with a number of artists, from Claude Cahun and Marcel Duchamp down to the present day, some of them brought together in this gallery.