From October Files
Critical essays on Cindy Sherman and one of contemporary art's most innovative bodies of work.
With her Untitled Film Stills of the 1970s, Cindy Sherman became one of the era's most important and influential artists. Since then, her metamorphosing self-portraits and appropriation of genres can be seen as a continuous investigation of representation and its complicated relationship to photography. Sherman and her work are often discussed in terms of postmodern theories and ideas that were coming to increasing prominence as her career began—feminism, subjectivity, mass media, new forms of mechanical reproduction, and even trauma, among others. Yet her refusal to acknowledge any of these themes as particular concerns raises questions about the relationships between the meanings projected upon a work of art and those produced by it. Cindy Sherman's art fascinates us in part because of its capacity to suggest—while at the same time slipping away from—so many possible readings. The discussions in these illustrated essays span Sherman's almost three-decade-long career, from her striking debut in the black-and-white Untitled Film Stills through her color photographs using back-projection, prosthetic body parts, and the ever-ingenuous modes of disguise and self-fashioning seen in such later series as Centerfolds, Fairy Tales, and Disasters. The essays—by such well-known critics as Douglas Crimp, Hal Foster, and Rosalind Krauss—respond not only to Sherman's work but also to the arguments and postulations made about it, becoming part of the ongoing critical conversation about an artist of major significance.