The Broad gestures much excitement in the air as it presents its first special exhibition this June. The biggest Cindy Sherman exhibition to date is slated to open by the 11th featuring over 100 works of the artist. Most of it comes from the museum’s own collection. The Broad’s founding director shares that “Cindy is the only artist in the collection whose work we’ve acquired so deeply and regularly, for more than 30 years.”
On top of being the biggest exhibition on Cindy Sherman to date, it also is quite special as it will be the very first solo exhibition on the artist hosted by a major museum in the last two decades in Los Angeles. While it is needless to say Sherman is one of the most identifiable of contemporary artists, this also finds itself a crucial turning point to revisit how her works have played a pivotal role into the image-driven and image-heavy reality that we live with in the present.
Aptly entitled Imitation of Life, the exhibition once more takes us into the recesses of Sherman’s constantly shifting personas and projections of multiple identities. With the overwhelming catalogue that takes us to her interventions to art history negotiating her body through these specific historical thoroughfares down to her army aplenty with various personas that range from the entertaining to the disturbing, its hard to grasp where Sherman is but altogether the multiple impersonations and role-playing has continued to set the spectator bewildered by the uncanny charm of her portraits.
Fashion critic Cathy Horyn once described her works as “sad, hopeful, grotesquely comic women that need little interpretation. They are the characters many of us see in our mind’s eye, especially those of us who attend a lot of fashion shows in New York or Paris and imagine clothes not merely as a form of theatre and self-expression but also as a logical and occasionally horrific extension of personality.” Although Sherman’s work wasn’t primarily preoccupied with fashion, it bore a lot of resonance to the fashion crowd and how her work typified the exploration of personas beyond the surface, which included physical appearances, and clothes often played a part of the equation. The exhibition’s curator Philipp Kaiser adds that “she is one of the most important artists of our time, with a body of work that exemplifies the Pictures Generation—artists whose work came to fruition in the age of the proliferation of mass media imagery in the ‘80s, which is relevant to today’s image-saturated world.”
On our end, we also can’t really make up our minds on which particular work of Cindy we’ll be rooting for or cite as our favourite. Perhaps her take of stereotypical female roles from 50’s to 60’s Hollywood, her interventions on history pushing herself through these particular time frames to her take on high society and staging it altogether herself. There’s altogether that overwhelming diversity in the catalogue but what’s the most crucial thing is that it reactivates in us our innermost desires as a child to try and be whoever we want to be. And despite the pitfalls of this inevitably image-driven age we live in, Sherman will always remind us to posit our own questions in history whether it’s from yesterday down to those that existed several centuries ago and negotiate things with our own subjectivities and perhaps with our own bodies.
Cindy Sherman: Imitation of Life runs through 2nd October, 2016 at the Broad, 221 S. Grand Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90012.