Imitation of Life is the name. The exhibition is at The Broad and the artist is Cindy Sherman.
The Broad's first special exhibition became Tuesday's afternoon perfect excuse to go to Downtown L.A.
L.A.'s cultural hot spot.
The museum is so ahead of its time that it dropped the word museum (it's only called The Broad) and the entrance fee (there's free admission*)
What it didn't drop was the I-didn't-make-a-reservation queue outside. I guess this is L.A. after all.
But this time I did. I had one reservation, tickets for two.
Who the f*@k is Cindy Sherman? That is the first question the exhibition aims to answer.
She is a photographer. Her work comes mainly from the studio. The actual space but also her study process. With an outcome that is intimate, vulnerable and glossy; she has been validated by the art market. She is a contemporary-art-collector must have, a wink to the role of celebrities.
I had heard about her when I was in graduate school learning how to price an art piece and let me just roll my eyes at myself here people because really, I don't think I'm qualified to price anything let alone a piece of art. I ended up paying $200 for a little Ganesh necklace that I had been looking for, the littlest not-even-gold Ganesh that looks like a hanging piece of chicken McNugget and yet I'm unwilling to pay $30 for a mani-pedi.
The art market is like quick sand. Once you are looking at things from within the market perspective is hard to get out. This is the context under which I studied Cindy Sherman's work. The prices, her auction performances, its collectors. Speaking of art collectors Mr. Broad it seems had the equivalent of a Netflix binge, except it was not Netflix but Cindy Sherman. This is something I can relate to because I did really want to stop watching Felicity and I couldn't. My Felicity binge went on for 48 hours, his it's been years and has produced a major exhibition (most of the exhibited work belong to Mr. Broad's collection)
The exhibition relies on the white box concept. A quest for complete isolation with the intention to fade out outside stimulus in order to focus exclusively on the art. Yeah, not a huge fan. Most of the time and for reasons that are too long to explain I've found this approach elitist. Specially when the only context given to the exhibition are words narrated by the curator hinting the viewer what to feel and how to interpret what is being shown. This was not one of those times.
This time it was actually the reason why I was able to approach Sherman's work in an entirely new way. The chronological layout featuring from her earliest to her latest work gave my linear-thinking mind the support it needed for creating a new story outside the art market.
The amount of work she's produced implies to me there is a production system. A very successful one. This fascinates me. I've always been intrigued by questions like how an artist perceives and approaches their work, how much space they make in their lives for their art-making process and how this manifests on their daily schedule.
The fact that most of her work comes from her studio is -I think- what makes Cindy Sherman, Cindy Sherman.
She photographs herself to explore archetypical femininity. Without advocating for good and bad or right and wrong she uses the language of mass-media to abstract and conceptualize her ideas.
Her work serves as a documentation of a very complex and intimate process. It is my belief that she has shed many layers for her to become the object of her own interest. Social roles, gender identity, cultural limitations, performance expectations, fear. Something I deeply admire as the path to non-attachement is a spiritual one.
The final result is her visual commentary on cultural identity and a clear example of how the voice that comes from vulnerability hardly ever comes out shy but strong and precise. With an exhibition that had me jumping between form and content, questions and answers. She creates a conceptual multistability experience. The greatest ambiguity overload.
As any great visual artist Sherman blurs out the borders of which is media and which is message but as any great human being she gives complete authority to the viewer to decide.
It is with that authority that I can call her work abstract even when her aesthetics are not.
All pictures via The Broad
Having access to this type of artists is precisely one of the reasons we moved from El Salvador. The art scene here in L.A. is another reason why I'm smitten with this city. I'm particularly happy that The Broad's two big exhibitions are both by women. Cindy Sherman is the first, Yayoi Kusama is next.
Insert Charlotte-York fist pump here.
(*) As part of The Broad’s special exhibition program, tickets for Cindy Sherman: Imitation of Life are $12 for adults and free for visitors 17 and under.