From July 14 to October 8, 2012, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) will host the sole West Coast presentation of Cindy Sherman, a traveling retrospective of one of the most significant contemporary artists and arguably the most influential one working exclusively with photography. Known for photographing herself in a range of guises and personas that are by turns amusing and disturbing, distasteful and affecting, Sherman has built an international reputation for an extraordinary body of work. Tracing her career from the mid-1970s to present, the exhibition is the first major U.S. retrospective of the artist in nearly 15 years, introducing Sherman to a new generation of audiences.
Organized by Eva Respini of The Museum of Modern Art in New York (MoMA), Cindy Sherman brings together more than 150 photographs from both public and private collections, including key works from SFMOMA’s own holdings. The presentation at SFMOMA is overseen by Erin O’Toole, assistant curator of photography, and is the first major exhibition of Sherman’s work ever mounted in San Francisco.
Throughout her career, Sherman has presented a sustained, eloquent, and provocative exploration of the construction of contemporary identity, the nature of representation, and the artifice of photography. Her works resonate deeply with our visual culture, drawing from the unlimited supply of images from movies, television, magazines, the Internet, and art history. Today Sherman’s work is the unchallenged cornerstone of postmodern photography.
Masquerading as myriad characters in front of her camera, Sherman has served as her own model for more than 30 years, constructing invented personas and tableaus. To create her photographs, she works unassisted in her studio, and assumes multiple roles as photographer, model, art director, makeup artist, hairdresser, and stylist. Through her skillful guises, she has created an astonishing and continually intriguing variety of culturally resonant characters, from sexy starlet to clown to aging socialite.
“Sherman’s work is particularly relevant to today’s image-saturated culture because she reminds us to be critical consumers of what we see,” says O’Toole. “She holds a mirror up to contemporary society, calling attention to the strangeness of things we tend to see as normal, like fashion, makeup, and plastic surgery.”
Born in 1954 in Glen Ridge, New Jersey, Sherman received her BA from Buffalo State College and moved to New York City in 1977, where she has resided ever since. The exhibition showcases the remarkable range of Sherman’s photography, from her early experiments as a student in Buffalo to her recent large-scale photographic murals, which are customized to fit each installation site. The presentation examines some of the dominant themes prevalent throughout Sherman’s work, such as artifice and fiction, cinema and performance, horror and the grotesque, myth and fairy tale, and gender and class identity.
A selection of ambitious and celebrated works will be highlighted, including a complete set of the seminal Untitled Film Stills (1977–80)—70 black-and-white photographs that feature the artist in stereotypical female roles inspired by 1950s and 1960s Hollywood, film noir, and European art-house films—and all twelve of her centerfolds (1981), in addition to selections from her significant series of works: fairy tale/mythology (1985); history portraits (1988–90); sex pictures (1992); headshots (2000); clowns (2002–04); fashion (1983–84, 1993–94, 2007–08); and society portraits (2008).
The exhibition also premieres, in the U.S., a recently created photographic mural (2010–11) that represents the artist’s first foray into transforming space through site-specific fictive environments. In the mural, Sherman transforms her face digitally, exaggerating her features through Photoshop by elongating her nose, narrowing her eyes, or creating smaller lips. The characters, who sport an odd mix of costumes and are taken from daily life, are elevated to larger-than-life status and tower over the viewer. Set against a decorative toile backdrop, her characters seem like protagonists from their own carnivalesque worlds, where fantasy and reality merge. The new work included in the retrospective offers an opportunity for reassessment in light of the latest developments in Sherman’s oeuvre.
Catalogue and Exhibition Tour
A fully illustrated publication accompanies the exhibition, with essays by exhibition curator Eva Respini and art historian Johann Burton, as well as a new interview with Sherman conducted by filmmaker and artist John Waters.
Cindy Sherman premiered at MoMA in New York (February 26–June 11, 2012), and following SFMOMA’s presentation, it will travel to the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis (November 10, 2012–February 17, 2013), and Dallas Museum of Art (March 17–June 9, 2013).
Cindy Sherman is organized by The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Major support for the San Francisco presentation is provided by the Fisher family, J.P. Morgan, and The Bernard Osher Foundation. Generous support is provided by Carla Emil and Rich Silverstein, Nion McEvoy, and the Bernard and Barbro Osher Exhibition Fund. The St. Regis San Francisco is the official hotel of this exhibition. Media sponsor: San Francisco Chronicle
In conjunction with the exhibition, SFMOMA will present Cindy Sherman Selects, a series of films—selected by Sherman—that have shaped her artistic vision. Reflecting a wide spectrum of genres and eras, the films highlight the extraordinary range of her interests and influences. Screenings will take place on Thursday evenings in July and August during the exhibition’s run. Tickets are $5 for general admission; free for SFMOMA members or with museum admission.
Cleo from 5 to 7
Agnès Varda, 1962, 90 min., 35mm
Thursday, July 5, 7 p.m.
At 5 p.m. beautiful French pop star Cléo learns that she will know the results of a stomach cancer test at 7 p.m. In the intervening hours she wanders the streets of Paris, encountering a fortune teller, her song composers, a model friend, and a soldier, and indulging in existential reflection. With cameos by Jean-Luc Godard and Anna Karina. Print courtesy of Institut Français and the Cultural Services of the French Embassy and Offices of the French Consulate, San Francisco. In French with English subtitles.
The Beaver Trilogy
Trent Harris, 2000, 83 min., Beta SP
Thursday, July 12, 7 p.m.
The Beaver Trilogy comprises three segments shot at different times: in 1979, 1981, and 1985. The first, The Beaver Kid, is a mini-documentary featuring “Groovin’ Gary,” a small-town performer from Beaver, Utah. Gary’s acts include impressions of John Wayne and Sylvester Stallone, and a performance in full drag as Olivia Newton-John. The second segment, The Beaver Kid 2, stars a young Sean Penn reenacting Groovin’ Gary’s Newton-John act, as “Groovin’ Gary” Huff. Finally, in The Orkin Kid, Crispin Clover reinterprets Penn’s performance, as “Olivia Neutron Bomb.” Video courtesy of the filmmaker.
John Frankenheimer, 1966, 107 min., 35mm
Thursday, July 19, 7 p.m.
Frankenheimer’s riveting film unfolds as a disillusioned middle-aged businessman is given the opportunity to be reborn as someone else through a mysterious organization known only as The Company. After faking his own death, he undergoes extreme plastic surgery and psychoanalysis and returns completely transformed as Tony Wilson, a handsome young painter played by Rock Hudson. As he lives out his seemingly idyllic new life, he begins to face the consequences of his decision. Print courtesy UCLA Film and Television Archive.
Bong Joon-Ho, 2006, 119 min., 35mm
Thursday, July 26, 7 p.m.
One of the best creature features of the last decade, The Host displays Bong’s signature blend of horror and dark humor. A mutant creature created by human pollution surfaces from Seoul’s Han River and terrorizes the town. In Korean with English subtitles.
Scott McGehee and David Siegel, 1993, 96 min., 35mm
Thursday, August 2, 7 p.m.
In this witty and cerebral murder mystery, Vincent Tower plots to kill his long-lost but nearly identical half-brother Clay and pass the death off as his own. Clay survives Vincent’s car bomb, but suffers severe amnesia. With the help of a plastic surgeon named Renee Descartes, Clay sets out to reconstruct his identity—but as Vincent, the prime suspect in their father’s murder. As Clay’s memory begins to return, he must decide which life he will embody.
La Jetée and Meshes of the Afternoon
Tuesday, August 7, noon
La Jetée; Chris Marker, 1962, 28 min., 35mm
Meshes of the Afternoon; Maya Deren and Alexander Hammid, 1943, 14 min., 16mm
Museum and program admission are free.
As part of Cindy Sherman Selects, SFMOMA screens two influential experimental films. Composed almost entirely of still photographs and considered one of the most beautiful films of all time, La Jetée depicts an underground, post–World War III world, where drug-induced time travel is used to send a prisoner to the future for help. Meshes of the Afternoon, Deren and Hammid’s best-known collaboration, exemplifies the filmmakers’ signature style of beauty and surrealism.
Barbara Loden, 1970, 102 min., 35mm
Thursday, August 9, 7 p.m.
Set in the coal mining region of Pennsylvania, this film follows Wanda, an alcoholic who abandons her husband and children for a life of drinking and sleeping with strange men. Her world changes again when she walks in on a man attempting to rob a bar and ends up on the road as his partner in crime—a ride that leads them both toward the unexpected. Restored by UCLA Film & Television Archive with funding provided by Gucci and the Film Foundation. Print courtesy UCLA Film and Television Archive.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
Tobe Hooper, 1974, 83 min., 35mm
Thursday, August 16, 7 p.m.
The horror film classic The Texas Chainsaw Massacre follows a group of young travelers whose car breaks down in the middle of nowhere to their misfortune. Known for originating many of the staples of the slasher genre—such as a faceless killer and power tools as weapons—it also functioned as a critique of the meat industry.
John Cassavetes, 1959, 81 min., 35mm
Thursday, August 23, 7 p.m.
Part documentary, part fiction, Shadows explores race relations during the Beat Generation years in New York City. A model of independent film, it was shot with a 16mm handheld camera on the streets of New York, much of the dialogue was improvised, and the cast and crew were made up almost entirely of volunteers. A jazz-infused soundtrack complements the subject matter and the era in which the film was born. Print courtesy of UCLA Film & Television Archive.
Matthew Vaughan, 2010, 117 min., 35mm
Thursday, August 30, 7 p.m.
Based on a comic book, Kick-Ass follows the adventures of an average teenager, who, without any real powers or training, dons an Internet-bought green and- yellow wetsuit and sets out to become a real-life superhero. Along the way, he encounters fellow DIY superheroes Big Daddy (Nicholas Cage) and his preteen daughter Hit Girl (Chloë Moretz). Together they must ward off the evil of a local mobster and his teenage son, Kick Ass’s arch-nemesis.
SFMOMA welcomes more than 650,000 visitors annually, and more than 46,000 students visit each year. Since opening its south of Market building in 1995, SFMOMA has added more than 13,000 works to its collections, 95 percent of which were donated, doubling its holdings to 26,000 works. At the same time, SFMOMA’s family programs have increased fivefold, teacher training programs have increased sixfold, and gallery tours have expanded to 1,800. SFMOMA has mounted a series of exhibitions that have drawn both record attendance and critical praise, including recent exhibitions by Diane Arbus, Olafur Eliasson, Eva Hesse, Frida Kahlo, William Kentridge, Sol LeWitt, Richard Tuttle, and Jeff Wall.