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Cindy Sherman review

Art National Portrait Gallery , Charing Cross Road Until Sunday September 15 2019
5 out of 5 stars
Cindy Sherman review
© Cindy Sherman. Image courtesy of National Portrait Gallery.

Time Out says

5 out of 5 stars

There’s this great Cindy Sherman quote that goes ‘I’m disgusted with how people get themselves to look beautiful.’ Disgust, anger, cynicism and mockery: those are the American artist’s fiercest tools. Her now almost iconic photography – mostly an exercise in extreme self-portraiture – might look like someone playing dress-up for decades, but Sherman has targets, and she is merciless.

In early work here, Sherman creates whole casts of characters from imaginary murder mysteries; she shoots countless, meticulous film stills from movies that don’t exist. She’s a bored ingénue, an abandoned lover, a weeping woman in a motel room. And you get it almost immediately: Sherman isn’t trying to trick you into believing this is real, she’s trying to show you how fake it all is. She exposes the artifice of films, theatre, beauty etc. She’s pulling back the curtain and telling you to wake up.

And she really comes into her own when she ramps up the cynicism. Three ‘Centerfolds’ images replace the cloying, saucy sexuality of nudie pics in jazz mags with uncomfortably vulnerable-looking women. Now you, the viewer, feel exploitative. 

From there, Sherman takes aim at fashion, posing in haute couture but made up to look ridiculous, mad, ugly. In her ‘Historic Portraits’ series she tears into Renaissance painting; in ‘Society Portraits’ she goes for ageing poshos desperate to reclaim their beauty.

Sherman can be terrifying too. Her mask images are grossly unsettling while the sex photos filled with dolls and prosthetics rip pornography a new one.

The last room in the show is a bit of a dud, and the ‘Flappers’ series isn’t her best. But Sherman is good. Really, really good. All that anger and bile is acid poured on the artifice and avarice of modern society. If art's good for anything, it's corroding away a bit of the world's bullshit, and we should be damn glad that Cindy Sherman's here to do it.

@eddyfrankel

Details

Venue name: National Portrait Gallery
Venue website: www.npg.org.uk
Venue phone: 020 7306 0055
Address: St Martin's Place
London
WC2H 0HE
Transport: Tube: Charing Cross
Price: £18-£20, concs available
Opening hours: Mon-Thu, Sat, Sun 10am-6pm; Fri 10am-9pm

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