Currently on view at the Museum of Modern Art is a retrospective of Cindy Sherman's groundbreaking photographic portraits spanning over 35 years of her career, featuring Untitled #458 (left). Along with Sherman, MoMA is also exhibiting Sweet Violence, a retrospective of Croatian artist Sanja Ivecovic, including her Paper Women (below).
Cindy Sherman made art history with her Untitled Film Stills, a series of black and white photos featuring the artist in various poses and settings from films that don't exist. Sherman stresses that these are in no way meant to be self portraits, but portrayals of different characters. In a 2008 interview with New York Magazine, the artist said, "I created in my mind an idea of who the character was, if she's wearing a certain outfit. Maybe the working girl on her way to her first job in the city. Something like that."
|Cindy Sherman, Untitled Film Still #10, 1978. Image via moma.org|
In recent years, Sherman's work has focused on questioning ideas of feminine beauty, as with her Fashion Victims series (shown above), which depicts aging women wearing excessive makeup or who have had cosmetic surgery in an attempt to cling to their youth.
Sanja Ivecovic's work also deals with the portrayal of women in advertising and the mass media. Ivecovic questions the way women are used to promote products and project a stylized view of women's lives that has nothing to do with their reality. One striking example is the Women's House series, where the artist takes print ads featuring glamorous models and captions them with first person accounts of women who live in shelters sharing their experiences of surviving domestic violence.
Sanja Ivecovic, Women's House (Sunglasses), 2002-present. Inkjet prints from a series of 16, collection of the artist. Image via moma.org
In the video and stills of Practice Makes a Master seen below, Ivecovic dons a black dress and white hood, two overt symbols of oppression and morbidity to comment on psychology and violence.
Overall, both Sherman and Ivecovic question the perception of women in society. Looking at their work, I was reminded of how little the media has changed when it comes to its portrayals of women. The "sweet violence" continues, and these two artists are more relevant than ever as we reflect on what still needs to change.