Los Angeles’ new contemporary art museum, The Broad, is honouring photography phenomenon Cindy Sherman in its inaugural exhibition. Guest curator Philipp Kaiser discusses Sherman’s enduring appeal in our image-saturated world.
What inspired you to curate this exhibition?
The Broad has an unparalleled collection of Cindy Sherman’s photographs dating back to when Eli and Edythe Broad first came across her work in the early 1980s. Over the years, [more than] 125 photographs have been acquired so it seemed obvious to kick off the first special exhibition at the Broad with Cindy. Her work hasn’t been featured in a solo exhibition in Los Angeles for 20 years!
What makes Cindy Sherman iconic?
Cindy Sherman’s work dissects identity and representation within the realm of mass media in contemporary culture. By photographing herself (she usually works alone), her chameleon-like personas generate work of utter beauty and disturbance, burrowing the language of media from cinema and television, to advertising, the internet, and even old master paintings. Her persistence to focus on the fragmented self for almost forty years is radical and distinct.
What fresh take does this exhibit offer?
Not only does the exhibition title Imitation of Life nod to Douglas Sirk’s 1959 melodrama, it also emphasizes Cindy Sherman’s thorough relationship with movie culture and the cinematic. For the show, Cindy created two enormous murals which are based on her early rear screen projections and welcome the viewer into her world. Along with several additional new photographs, the exhibition offers a comprehensive survey of her work since 1975 based on The Broad’s extensive collection and other key loans from major institutions.
I understand Sherman’s work is often considered to have a feminist agenda. What’s your take on this?
It can’t be denied that her work has a strong feminist angle. Over the years, many critics have focused on Cindy’s practice of staging stereotypes within a feminist framework. At the same time, the fact needs to be stressed that her work has gone way beyond gender specifics and deals with representation in mass media in general. It is more accurate to describe her practice as a deconstruction of identity in our oversaturated media reality.
What do you hope viewers will leave thinking, or having learned?
Cindy Sherman is one, if not the most, influential contemporary living artist and the exhibition offers the rare opportunity to be amazed by her various incarnations. The interconnectivity of each distinct series allows us to expand our ideas of Cindy’s practice and lets us understand how focused and broad the work has moved throughout the years. As a curator, I hope the visitors will be fulfilled, inspired and more aware of their own imitations of life.
Cindy Sherman: Imitation of Life runs June 11—October 2, 2016 at The Broad.