Cindy Sherman and the Art of Impersonation

This Sat­ur­day the much-not­ed Muse­um of Mod­ern Art ret­ro­spec­tive of pho­tog­ra­ph­er Cindy Sher­man’s work will make it’s West Coast debut at the San Fran­cis­co Muse­um of Mod­ern Art. The show, says New York Times art crit­ic Rober­ta Smith, reveals “an artist with an urgent, sin­gu­lar­ly per­son­al vision, who for the past 35 years has con­sis­tent­ly turned pho­tog­ra­phy against itself.”

Where the medi­um typ­i­cal­ly involves a pho­tog­ra­pher’s direct obser­va­tion of the world, Sher­man usu­al­ly points the cam­era at her­self as she takes a vari­ety of guis­es. “Aid­ed by ever-shift­ing arrays of cos­tumes, wigs, make­up tech­niques, acces­sories, props and at times masks and pros­thet­ic body parts,” writes Smith, “Ms. Sher­man has aggres­sive­ly role-played and stage-direct­ed her way through, and in many ways laid waste to, a lex­i­con of most­ly female stereo­types.”

The role-play­ing is appar­ent­ly infec­tious, because when NPR’s Ira Glass and a friend vis­it­ed the exhib­it before it closed in New York, they met a woman claim­ing to be Sher­man. Unsure whether she was the real thing or an imper­son­ator, Glass decid­ed to tele­phone Sher­man. You can lis­ten to her response at This Amer­i­can Life.

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