The Many Disguises of Cindy Sherman
Sprüth Magers, Los Angeles
through May 8
By Sydney Walters
As a young art student, Cindy Sherman rejected the limitations of painting for the newer, less-trodden domain of photography. However, in her latest exhibition at Sprüth Magers titled Tapestries, Sherman rewinds the historical art clock by resurrecting her Instagram self-portraits into tapestries.
Staying true to the succession of her photographic theses of disguise and subversion, Sherman manipulates her reference photos by using filters. She warps her appearance into sometimes ethereal, sometimes unsettling portraits. With Instagram having steadily maneuvered into a marketing platform rather than user’s self-possessed documentation, the plasticity and fantasy of these portraits fit into the perfect/imperfect dynamic coloring the social media’s bandwidth. By transferring several of these images onto a larger scale and manifesting them in fabric rather than pixels, Tapestries forgoes the familiar clutch of glossy fakery and emerges anew, hauling the impressive history of tapestry with it.
East piece looms (pun intended) larger than life at roughly nine feet tall. The craftsmanship of the work is exquisite. In some areas, the design appears scrambled and glitched, reflecting the process of scale inflation which obliterates the clarity of the pixels. Sherman commissioned these pieces from weavers in Belgium, a city that was once the epicenter of European tapestry fabrication. Considering how Medieval tapestries were often glamourous hyperboles of imagination (i.e. Hunt for the Unicorn) the wall ornaments also glorified royalty, war, and landscape.
Sherman probes into the mythic culture of tapestry. The imaginative shuffling that resulted in the unicorn or faun is the bedrock for Sherman’s characters. Yet the singularity of the figure is quite divergent from tapestry tradition. Customarily, tapestries were highly complex scenes and narratives. The sheer multiplicity of ornamentation, character composition, and pattern precision makes the tapestry a dazzling parade of delights. Sherman’s pieces feature her alone with hints of landscape or hazy color in the background. By doing this, she dissociates from the collective in order to dramatize the singular. Coincidentally, that is a distinctive virtue of Instagram. Only in religious tapestries do we see anything remotely similar to a singular character. Thus, Sherman weaves a composition that is radically different from the archetypal milieu of tapestry while championing its fantastic and curious spirit.
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