Gallery 2

Untitled Film Stills 1977-1982

from the collection
of the Museum of Modern Art,
New York
Curator: Peter Galassi
Cooperation: Milada Slizinska

Cindy Sherman was twenty-three years old when she began making these pictures in 1977. The first were an experiment: fan-magazine glimpses into the life (or roles) of an imaginary blonde actress, played by Sherman herself. She went on to impersonate other imaginary actresses in other roles, eventually completing the series of sixty-nine photographs in 1980. She stopped, she has explained, when she ran out of cliches.
Other artists had drawn upon popular culture, but Sherman's strategy was new. For her the pop-culture image was not a subject (as it had been for Walker Evans) or raw material (as it had been for Andy Warhol) but a whole artistic vocabulary, ready-made. Her film stills look and function just like the real ones - those 8-by-10-inch glossies designed to lure us into a drama we find all the more compelling because we know it is not real.

In the Untitled Film Stills there are no Cleopatras, no ladies on trains, no women of a certain age. There are, of course, no men. The sixty-nine solitary heroines map a particular constellation of fictional femininity that took hold in postwar America - the period of Sherman's youth, and the ground-zero of our contemporary mythology. In finding a form for her own sensibility, Sherman touched a sensitive nerve in the culture at large.
Although most of the characters are invented, we sense right away that we already know them. That twinge of instant recognition is what makes the series tick, and it arises from Cindy Sherman's uncanny poise. There is no wink at the viewer, no open irony, no camp. As Warhol said, "She's good enough to be a real actress".

Peter Galassi
Chief Curator, Department of Photography

All of the works are in the collection of The Museum of Modern Art, acquired by purchase. They are gelatine-silver prints, printed in 1995. The sixty-nine works in the series are numbered. The numbers omitted from the numerical sequence were assigned by Sherman to color pictures in a new series, which she begun before completing black-and-white series.

Cindy Sherman
was born in New Jersey in 1954. She recieved her B. A. in photography from the State University of New York at Buffalo in 1976. She began work on the Untitled Fil Stills in 1977, the same year she moved to New York City. In addition to her ongoing work in photography, Sherman directed the feature film Office Killer, which premiered in New York in December 1997. She lives in New York.