We've heard it before: "Cindy Sherman is a has-been," or "Her work doesn't say anything new." And for a while it seemed to be truncated in the 1980s, when women's groups protested en masse against domestic violence and rape. Although Sherman was re-appropriating Hans Bellmer's twisted mannequin imagery, the sight of her own face charged the issues. But this time the photographer returns with a literally new collection of work that goes where no woman ever wants to go: graying, old-age.
Although all images are untitled, Sherman portrays the early years of senior life on a monolithic scale as each photograph averages 8-feet in height and 5-feet in width. But these images are not about the photographer. Her identity is lost in the guise of Everywoman, seen daily throughout New York City, and initially appears as a frumpy Jewish mother who looks identical to Mike Myers' rendition of Linda Richman on Saturday Night Live. However her droopy stomach and wide waist are temporarily obscured by the bling of bauble jewelry. The subject's sour gaze and defiant pose remind viewers what they're looking at and what they have to look forward to.
Sherman explores a number of feminine physical evolutions that hit on different stereotypes: the elder Southern Belle, sitting alone inside her faux villa wearing a svelte necklace of natural pearls; the genetically deficient family heir; the Liza Minnelli look-alike; the Upper East Side widow and the aged but sexy cowgirl. Most of these subjects glare outwardly in an effort to share their misunderstood agony. However if Cindy Sherman is her own semiotic, why did I see so many women at the show with blond or graying bob-cuts?
I initially attended the reception at Metro Pictures without anything to expect, much less a show of work by the legendary Cindy Sherman. Although it seems like the crux of feminism has slipped away, the photographer has captured a feminine situation that most women would like to either avoid or suffer through silently. Although a dense crowd lined the sidewalk and surrounded both the artist and her partner, David Byrne, this show was about more than stardom. It's about the future that we don't want to think about.