Too much is never enough. The Fondation Louis Vuitton is dedicating a retrospective of 170 artworks to the American artist Cindy Sherman (born in 1954).
There is a risk of it feeling like an overdose. But we welcome it graciously because that is the point. It’s an overdose of faces, which are always the same person: Cindy Sherman. An overdose of colours, since the majority of the very large-format photos pop in polychrome.
But also because the scenography designed by architect Marco Palmieri is composed of unexpected backdrops using cosmetic hues.
A great provocateur
And it is above all an overdose of excess itself, and ultimately of horror – because Sherman is a great provocateur. All of her monstrous images feature in this retrospective, which showcases a side of her work that wasn’t visible at her exhibition at Moma in 2012. Cindy doesn’t hesitate to portray herself looking unattractive on many occasions, which is a tonic in a world filled with photoshopped images of women.
Marie-Laure Bernadac, co-curator of the exhibition, comments:
The other interesting thing about this exhibition is that it highlights Sherman’s very early works, such as the film “Doll Clothes” about a paper doll that can be dressed up dating from 1975, which foreshadowed the rest of her oeuvre, and her recent works including the “Flappers” series (2016-2018) featuring emancipated women from the interwar period, the “Men” (2019-2020) depicting terrifying gentlemen dressed in a state-of-the-art style, and tapestries (2019-2020) with large-scale images of faces distorted by technology printed on this new and very traditional material.
Olivier Michelon, co-curator of the exhibition, comments on this more recent period in the room dedicated to the tapestries.
Cindy’s raw material is herself, always. When studying the female self-portrait in the history of photography two names initially come to the fore.
The first, in the 19th century, is Castiglione (1837-1899). This whimsical countess made a large number of portraits with the help of the photographer Pierson of herself dressed up as different characters.
The second is Claude Cahun (1894-1954) who among other things was a surrealist photographer with a free spirit who presented herself as androgynous. Cindy Sherman is the heir to these two colourful figures, while also being an absolute product of her times since she has evolved with the photographic technique.
Her life as an artist began with the creation of the life of an imaginary actress in 1977 when at the age of 23 she entered art history by inventing a new genre. She imitated film stills to the extent that she even borrowed the format, producing black and white pictures measuring 19x24cm on glossy paper.
From the 1980s onward she continued in her cinematographic repertoire, but opting for colour, which she would only rarely depart from.
Catalogue of herself
Since the mid-1970s she has built up this catalogue of images of herself alone, where she is the only creative for make-up, hairstyling, set design, lighting, special effects and other optical illusions… “What makes me admire her is the fact that she does everything herself,” observes Suzanne Pagé, director of the Fondation Vuitton.
The camera lies
Cindy Sherman did not wish to be interviewed. But she once confessed that “the one thing I have always known is that the camera lies.” This provides a fitting conclusion on how lying can form part of an oeuvre and, paradoxically, also reveal its author and her obsessions.
Ultimately Cindy Sherman’s work resembles a series of stills from films that were never made in which the artist always plays the main role.
Crossing Views. Fondation Louis Vuitton. Until 3 January. https://www.fondationlouisvuitton.fr/
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