Cindy Sherman at The Broad
Since the inception of the first permanent image in 1826, and the subsequent domination of portraiture as its subject, photography has become an extension of ourselves in ways that could never have been imagined by Nadar, the first famed portraitist. One wonders if this was also as illusive to Cindy Sherman in 1975, when her work simultaneously plunged into and helped define postmodernist responses to popular culture. It’s now over 40 years later, and “Imitation of Life,” The Broad’s first special exhibition, highlights the artist’s astute ability to remain not just relevant and an exceptional social commentator, but resolutely one of the most meaningful artists of our time. “We are defined by images. Cindy is both the photographer and the model, and that’s a very powerful role to take on, especially in the early days of mass media images and particularly of a woman,” Joanne Heyler, Founding Director, remarks. Although not intended, this exhibition, happening adjacent to a historically significant time in our political and popular culture, is part of the many reasons why it’s remarkable and synergistic.
“Imitation of Life,” Cindy Sherman’s first Los Angeles show in almost 20 years, came to The Broad first, as the result of their love of her work. It was 1982 and although they were not photography collectors at the time, her work resonated deeply, “We were blown away”, said Mr. Broad. She became the first artist that Eli and Edye Broad collected in depth, including a “standing order of her work,” Heyler states. Although what seems to just be provocative portraits in a multitude of dress, makeup, and scenery; they are actually a part of a solo performance dialectic practice that raises the deep questions about visual culture: consumption, stereotypes, and persona.
This exhibition, curated by Philip Kaiser, was crafted for Los Angeles, furthering the layered nature of work. As it’s still being made, it intersects, interprets, and folds into this city’s deep history of image-making and performance art. He says, “In this way, the imitation of cinema and the imitation of life blur beyond recognition.” Pervasive in her approach, according to Heyler, is “her willingness to work with popular media while embracing it.” The accompanying audio tour through The Broad free mobile app allows the viewer to connect to the work through responses from other groundbreaking artists and “Hollywood notables”, mostly woman, lending more elegance to Sherman’s choice (partially) to the title, based on Douglas Sirk’s ingenue identity crisis melodrama of the same name.
Adjunct programming such as Nonobject(ive): Summer Happenings at The Broad will feature performance and multi-media based on the many forms Cindy has taken over the decades. Every other Thursday night in the Oculus Hall, the Doll Parts Film series, will inventively interchange in influences to her work with those in infuenced by, in presentation of films, music videos, and artist’s tapes.
Written by Alix Fournier
Photographed by Jack Strutz