Cindy Sherman is a dab hand at deconstructing herself. For four decades, the artist has moved through many transformations and transfigurations, using her own face and body as a proxy for society’s divided selves. She has mastered this to such a degree that many may not recognise the ‘real’ Cindy Sherman, only her many, captivating guises.
Now, during Zurich Art Week 2023, she will take on another, harnessing digital tools that have formed a key facet of her practice since 2000. In the new works on view at Hauser & Wirth Zurich, Sherman has collaged parts of her own face through digital manipulation tools to piece together the identities of various characters. In physicality, the portraits are about Sherman, but in reference to society at large, they are about modernity and the many fractured selves that lurk within it.
In these new works, there are no scenic backdrops, or mise-en-scène, and each uses limited props. A digital collaging technique – using black and white and colour photographs – is merged with other traditional modes of character transformation, such as make-up, wigs and costumes.
The results are uncanny, amusing and borderline grotesque as Sherman’s sitters (which don’t technically exist) laugh, grimace or snarl in confusion in front of the camera. This act of digital warping, sampling and remodelling is reminiscent of Sherman’s previous work using physical prosthetics, such as History Portraits (1988) or Masks from the 1990s. Then, as now, the prosthetic machinations were left intentionally exposed, destroying any hope of illusion.
Sherman photographed isolated parts of her body – her eyes, nose, lips, skin, hair, and ears – which are then cut, pasted and superimposed onto a foundational image. Some collaged elements are less obvious than others; the seams jarring with their subtlety. The cut-and-paste remixes in some are tangible, such as Untitled #631 (2010/2023) and Untitled #652 (2023), where Sherman remixes black and white and coloured fragments.
The Zurich exhibition comes at something of a moment for Sherman, who is currently staging two museum shows: ‘Cindy Sherman – Tapestries’ at ARoS Aarhus Art Museum in Denmark, and ‘Cindy Sherman: Anti-Fashion’ at Staatsgalerie Stuttgart in Germany.
Cindy Sherman's show will run at Hauser & Wirth Zurich, Limmatstrasse, 9 June – 16 September 2023. hauserwirth.com
Harriet Lloyd-Smith is the Arts Editor of Wallpaper*, responsible for the art pages across digital and print, including profiles, exhibition reviews, and contemporary art collaborations. She started at Wallpaper* in 2017 and has written for leading contemporary art publications, auction houses and arts charities, and lectured on review writing and art journalism. When she’s not writing about art, she’s making her own.
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