Monday, May 25, 2015

Small Scale Black & White Photographs

Damaged Dolls in Sexual Positions, Cindy Sherman, 1999

As I recall, these photographs were not at all well received when they first appeared.  My old friend and patron, Vince Aletti, was particularly harsh in his assessment of them when he reviewed the exhibit for the Village Voice.  He believed that these disturbing images were merely about her where her earlier work was more about us, the viewers, and that they functioned primarily as a grotesque challenge to her collectors.  Given Vince’s encyclopaedic knowledge of the history of photography and his obsessive collecting of every sort of photographic print, it should come as no surprise that he smartly saw and noted the connection to old Polaroid porn (amateur stuff much like he could have gotten in the bargain bin at Buried Treasures on Hudson Street back in the day.)  For me these particular pictures were a brave departure for Sherman, in their small scale and the austerity of their pictorial means.  I’m aware that she had used prostheses and mannequins previous to this instance, but not these children’s toys.  They harken back in many ways to her student work, particularly to the paper doll photos and film.  In these works, though, she shows a much greater interest in and understanding of her medium than anywhere else in her oeuvre.  In this instance she appears engaged in the making of what look like genuine photos.  


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