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Cindy Sherman in Paris

Cindy Sherman, In My StairwellThe French museum of photography in the Jeu de Paume has just opened the most important retrospective of Cindy Sherman in history, and also the first ever in France. It contains some 200 of Sherman's trademark self-portraits, in which she is disguised as anyone from a Botticelli madonna to a film noir heroine. I have just read the review by Françoise Dargent (Le grand album de Cindy Sherman, June 1) for Le Figaro (my translation):

The exhibit allows you to follow the evolution of an artist who has affirmed the singularity of her work from the start by combining photography with performance art. In the series called Murder Mystery, we see the photographer playing all kinds of roles. With the help of makeup and accessories -- a raincoat, a cigarette, a hat, glasses -- Cindy Sherman becomes one by one a maid, a detective, a vamp, a bad boy, an elegant man. The black and white instant photographs come one after the other and only the viewer's imagination puts together the film of the events in its own way.

At the end of the 70s, the artist refined this method and broke new ground with a series called Untitled Film Stills. Showing scenes from American B movies, they were related to still film shots. They place Cindy Sherman on the set in very diverse costumes, backgrounds, attitudes. Cindy is sleeping, cries, dreams, waits, smokes, fixes her hair. You start to scrutinize the images to reveal something about them. There is precious little information, except for the name of a town, Flagstaff, on one of the shots. [...]

We see her face again in the most recent work. It has aged as have her characters. In the series Hollywood-Hampton types (2000-2002), she becomes "failed or forgotten actors posing for headshots." The makeup and clothing make these faces of aging women pitiful. It's a cruel gesture, but the point is effective yet again. The question of appearance to others, so tangible in today's society, is at the center of her thought. The awesome power of images is identified as such correctly.
Cindy Sherman is open in Paris until September 3.

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