Art21: First Look (10 of 20)
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This video is excerpted from the Season 5 episode Transformation premiering on Wednesday, October 21, 2009 at 10pm (ET) on PBS (check local listings). Whether satirizing society or reinventing icons of literature, art history, and popular culture, the artists in Transformation—Paul McCarthy, Cindy Sherman, and Yinka Shonibare MBE—inhabit the characters they create and capture the sensibilities of our age. Cindy Sherman was born in 1954 in Glen Ridge, New Jersey. In self-reflexive photographs and films, Cindy Sherman invents myriad guises, metamorphosing from Hollywood starlet to clown to society matron. Often with the simplest of means—a camera, a wig, makeup, an outfit—Sherman fashions ambiguous but memorable characters that suggest complex lives lived out of frame. Leaving her works untitled, Sherman refuses to impose descriptive language on her images, relying instead on the viewer’s ability to develop narratives as an essential component of appreciating the work. While rarely revealing her private intentions, Sherman’s investigations have a compelling relationship to public images, from kitsch (film stills and centerfolds) to art history (Old Masters and Surrealism) to green-screen technology and the latest advances in digital photography. Sherman’s exhaustive study of portraiture and self-portraiture—often a playful mixture of camp and horror, heightened by gritty realism—provides a new lens through which to examine societal assumptions surrounding gender and the valuation of concept over style.


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