In her self-staged portraits, Cindy Sherman uses make-up, costume and lighting effects to adopt different personas, inverting cliché female types propagated through television and film. By staging herself as different stereotypical characters, Sherman suggests that identity is performable and malleable, based in appearance rather than in actuality. Her work further implicates the viewer in the meaning of the work, inviting us to project our own interpretations.
This room presents Sherman’s work alongside earlier pop and photography-based conceptual art, as well as contemporary works exploring theatrical and autobiographical themes or proposing art as a stage for self-representation or public exposure.
Constructed worlds and identities are exposed and embellished in the work of Laurie Simmons, Sherrie Levine and Lynn Hershman, while Sanja Ivekovic’s photographic work reflects the impact of media imagery on women’s lives, highlighting the disparity between high-gloss ideals of femininity and everyday realities. Exaggerated identity and pathos is also performed in Paul McCarthy’s Painter. Staged within an over-lit room resembling a temporary television studio, the absurdly attired McCarthy satirises the ‘heroic’ abstract expressionist painter, sketched here as an infantile eccentric only capable of expression through the primal impulsive pursuit of his art.