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Cindy Sherman: The Complete Untitled Film Stills [Hardcover]

Peter Galassi , Cindy Sherman
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

Oct. 2 2003
Cindy Sherman's Untitled Film Stills, a series of 69 black-and-white photographs created between 1977 and 1980, is widely seen as one of the most original and influential achievements in recent art. Witty, provocative and searching, this lively catalogue of female roles inspired by the movies crystallizes widespread concerns in our culture, examining the ways we shape our personal identities and the role of the mass media in our lives. Sherman began making these pictures in 1977 when she was 23 years old. The first six were an experiment: fan-magazine glimpses into the life (or roles) of an imaginary blond actress, played by Sherman herself. The photographs look like movie stills--or perhaps publicity pix--purporting to catch the blond bombshell in unguarded moments at home. The protagonist is shown preening in the kitchen and lounging in the bedroom. Onto something big, Sherman tried other characters in other roles: the chic starlet at her seaside hideaway, the luscious librarian, the domesticated sex kitten, the hot-blooded woman of the people, the ice-cold sophisticate and a can-can line of other stereotypes. She eventually completed the series in 1980. She stopped, she has explained, when she ran out of clichés.
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 x 10 glossies designed to lure us into a drama we find all the more compelling because we know it isn't 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 69 solitary heroines map a particular constellation of fictional femininity that took hold in postwar America--the period of Sherman's youth and the starting point for 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.
In 1995, The Museum of Modern Art purchased the series from the artist, preserving the work in its entirety. This book marks the first time that the complete series will be published as a unified work, with Sherman herself arranging the pictures in sequence.

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From Publishers Weekly

Sherman's provocative and much-discussed Untitled Film Stills series, created between 1977 and 1980, is collected for the first time in this 9.5" x 11.25" volume from MoMA, which purchased the entire set of 69 shots in 1995. Sherman's mysterious and perplexing "portraits" should not really be called "self," since Sherman appears solely in the guises of others, donning the clothing, wigs and makeup of various female '50s and '60s film "types" (the forgotten wife, the boozy hussy, the working girl, etc.) and elevating the art of playing dress-up to a whole new level. In her disarmingly honest introduction to the book, Sherman says of the European film stars like Simone Signoret, Sophia Loren or Jeanne Moreau, from whom she drew her inspiration, "What I was interested in was when they were almost expressionless," a rare occurrence in posed and artificial publicity shots. But while Sherman's photographs may initially resemble film stills, their grainy, dodgy quality (Sherman says, "I didn't care much about the print quality; the photographs were supposed to look like they cost fifty cents"); her disturbingly blank expression and chameleon-like ability to disappear into character; and the backgrounds of empty New York City streets and rundown lofts (in some ways, the photos act as a historical archive of a time when a less-gentrified New York functioned as a giant playground for artists) all conspire to give necessary dissonance to the myths Sherman explores. Sherman began making the series at the age of 23, and it soon established her as a major voice in the contemporary art scene, adding a much-needed female presence in what is more often than not a hyper-macho field. In the process of questioning the portrayal of women, Sherman questioned the art of portraiture itself and its uneasy place in 20th-century American society, opening a different path on which to proceed.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Cindy Sherman: Film Stills May 13 2004
Format:Hardcover
Cindy Sherman's Untitled Film Stills, a series of 69 black-and-white photographs created between 1977 and 1980, is widely seen as one of the most original and influential achievements in recent art.
Was this review helpful to you?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.6 out of 5 stars  14 reviews
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This book shows what is great about Cindy Sherman May 2 2006
By Chris Kitze - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
At first glance, you might see ordinary, banal photos that resemble out takes from studio stills. Look deeper and you will see works of genius that expose a new way of seeing and exploring the inner self that have been highly influential in the art world. This book has the images that started it all for Cindy Sherman and for that reason, you should start with this book if you want to learn about this artist.

Who will like this book? I think just about anyone with an interest in art or photography would consider this a "must have" book for their personal library. Nothing in this book would embarrass you if you gave it as a gift; it is edgy, but not to the point of weirdness. I just gave a copy to my 10-year-old daughter for inspiration and she really enjoyed it (though probably not at the level of an adult). If you are willing to look, this book will reward you.

Like any great artist, she makes it look easy. Her singular vision is apparent in the location selection, "set" design, makeup and costuming. If you have ever tried to do this yourself, you will respect what she has accomplished. The end result is that Ms. Sherman reveals what she wants us to believe are her innermost thoughts and emotions. Like great cinema, these photos achieve true suspension of disbelief and challenge the viewer's own framework of emotional identity. In the end, we believe.

Arguably, these are the best work ever done by Ms. Sherman. One complaint about her newer work is that it seems to continue to retread the same themes and variations. Sure, her newest works are bigger and colorful in keeping with the latest trends in photography -- personally, my favorites are the images in this book. There is a freshness I don't find in her later work. But this human story, like her imagery, will always continue to be explored by artists as long as there are humans to explore.
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent collection May 1 2005
By Rae - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Cindy Sherman's work is inspiring. She's deadly serious about not being serious. This book is a great collection of her Untitled Film Stills collection, which happen to be my favorites in her body of work. Great introductory to her art.
9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars beautiful body of work Dec 10 2005
By S. Plourde - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I have to vehemently disagree with the previous review. Art is not all about perfection of technique. Technique helps, but point of view is always more important. Take, for example, Sebastio Salgado's third world portraits - super grainy, not technically perfect, but beautiful. Sherman has created a series of portraits lampooning as film stills that are lighthearted in idea, but in reality are often melancholy and full of life. The content is what's important here, not technique. If you want technically perfect photographs and don't care if there's interesting content, go look at some Ansel Adams landscapes.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Buy Feb. 21 2006
By L. Grochowski - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This is a GREAT book. The pages are large and sturdy and show off her artwork well. A huge plus is the introduction written by Sherman...it gives you an inside look at some of the stories behind and the inspirations to some of the photographs. The book features a variety of her work through time. It is arranged very well.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Untitled Film Stills March 7 2006
By Buffy - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This book along with the "Centerfolds" hardcover exhibition book provide the essential Cindy Sherman images. The film stills presented here are all in black and white, and her next project "Centerfolds" were all in color. Taken together you get the complete picture on Cindy Sherman.
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