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Cindy Sherman. Serpentine Gallery, london, 3rd June 2003

From: Roxy
Category: Exhibitions
Date: 03 June 2003


Looking at the Untitled film-stills in the 80ís was exciting. They were funny and clever and articulated important feminist ideas about gender and role play that had perhaps seemed a bit dry in text books. They, and the murder mystery sequence, are still intriguing pieces of work, but in this exhibition are swamped by work that collectively places us in a portrait gallery, the portrait gallery of a monomaniac.

It is a show in which it is difficult to separate parts from the whole. Itís easy to imagine how one or two of several of the series could be well placed in essay shows and become articulate about artifice and horror, about gaps in self perception. En masse, though, one gets easily stuck in the same kind of boredom that the National Portrait Gallery can bring on. Itís all about status and surface and not enough of the images have that certain something that entrances or detains you. There is nothing as incisive as a Holbein outline here, which, logo for the dynasty or not, was still as sharp as a scalpel.

The pastiches of Old Master Paintings are much better than Bill Violaís, but to say this is to damn with faint and tainted praise, for most of those are unspeakable. Itís only worth mentioning here, because one of the problems of the show is that it seems so dated in itís lack of anything but a parody of feeling, (where Viola has a cloying pastiche of religiosity). Neither seems sufficient. In Barthes (and Untitled Film Stills) there are the erotics of the text. This seems more like scraping away at an overworn Essential Guide To Postmodernity.

Itís hard not to speculate about the artistís self perception. What is it like to go every-day and dress up and prostheticise? As a longstanding un-fan of Orlan and her progressive self-surgery I was suddenly more impressed with her response to ageing. This can seem a bit Norma Desmond, any idea from the early work of taking control of the image frighteningly skewed by play-mutilation, Breast-Droop Horror, Lipstick Hell. Maybe this is itís strength though, and it was the opening was as busy as a Monet at the Academy (which in itself is a rather ageing thought). Writing this has re-intrigued me though. I will go back and look, and queue before images behind who? Who is the new home-counties blue-rinse? Size six with collagen?

After the opening we had dinner at Hugoís on the way to South Ken Tube. It was the perfect burger with perfect floury home cooked chips. Develop that Waistline with Pleasure and Mayonnaise.

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