“In the large-scale colour portraits, the artist imagines herself as a cast of 'grandes dames' from the Golden Age of 1920s Hollywood cinema. Differing from Sherman’s earlier series, these actresses are presented outside of the filmic narrative, posing instead for what seem to be formal publicity shots. Despite their elaborate garb, coiffed hairdos and painted faces, the leading ladies are clearly in their twilight years, and the grave stoicism of their expressions gives way to instances of poignant vulnerability: fine lines emerge through caked-on make-up, and sinewy, aged hands seem at odds with the smooth polish of their owners’ faces. The actresses pose against digitally manipulated backgrounds that are suggestive of the film sets and backdrops of yesteryear. Skyscrapers, a busy café scene, manicured gardens and a classical landscape all feature within the series. One photograph created earlier this year, displays four actresses in different coloured tulle costumes. Seated together, they reference the historic popularity of sister acts in the entertainment industry.”
From Sprüth Magers’ catalogue
“Some play with scarves to hide their wrinkles, others rely on a brave, haughty or mysterious expression. All could quite clearly carry off once more whatever roles they played on the silver screen until age edged them out of the system. But in each case there are a hundred more nuances, of doubt, pride, suffering, foolishness, survival, courage, learned from the life and irrepressible even in these supposed publicity shots for films that will never be made.”
From The Guardian’s review
I visited the new Cindy Sherman exhibit at Sprüth Magers’ gallery in Mayfair on Saturday 7 July. In it, the masterful American artist and photographer completely transforms herself into a series of powdered and bewigged veteran show biz divas of a certain age in eerie, powerful and riveting self-portraits. The focus is on liver-spotted hands clutching chiffon and the whole arsenal of artifice: plucked-out eyebrows, scarlet lips painted into a cupid’s bow. The vibe is very ruined glamour, Kenneth Anger’s Hollywood Babylon, decaying Hollywood Mansions, Sunset Boulevard / Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?
Looking at them, you can’t help but associate the photos with the doomed flapper Clara Bow, Mary Pickford’s reclusive alcoholic later years, or the botched face lift of Hedy Lamar. The show is about aging, but also about haughty defiance (or denial) towards aging, and a commitment to glamour at all costs despite aging. (And the show is inevitably about the aging of Sherman herself, who is now 64. Those unretouched liver-spotted hands belong to her!). The exhibit is free and runs until 1 September 2018.
Further reading:read my scene report from John Water's 2015 exhibit Beverley Hills John at Sprüth Magers here.