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Cindy Sherman exposed: Three decades of a master masquerader’s photos

From an eerie clown to a society doyenne, photographer Cindy Sherman has masqueraded as a series of characters in front of her own camera.

Sherman’s “Untitled Film Stills” series, comprising 70 black-and-white photographs made between 1977 and 1980, are made to resemble publicity pictures taken on movie sets. The images represent clichés from films of the 1950s and 60s: career girl, bombshell, housewife and so on.

For the first time in 15 years, work that spans Cindy Sherman's entire career, from the mid-70s to the present, will be on display in one place: New York's Museum of Modern Art. The exhibit opens Feb. 26.

Imaging Services, MoMA, N.Y.

Fashion has been a constant source of inspiration for Sherman’s work. In 1983, she parodied typical fashion photography by featuring unfashionable characters that that were goofy, hysterical, angry or slightly mad.

In the 1980s and 90s, macabre and grotesque narratives were prevalent in Sherman’s work.

Charles Griffin

Part of Sherman’s centerfolds series, this photograph sold for a whopping $3,890,500 in May 2011 at Christie's in New York, making it the most expensive photograph ever sold. It held that record until November 2011.

In Sherman’s history portraits (1988-90), she borrows from a number of art-historical periods—Renaissance, baroque, rococo and Neoclassical.

Charles Griffin

Sherman’s history portraits make allusions to paintings by Raphael, Caravaggio, Fragonard and Ingres.

Krause, Johansen

In Sherman’s 1992 sex pictures, she arranged dolls bought from medical-supply catalogues to simulate sex acts and mimic scenes from pornography.

Charles Griffin

In her head-shots series, Sherman conceived a cast of would-be or has-been actors posing for head shots in order to get acting jobs. The series was first exhibited in Beverly Hills.

The characters in Sherman’s 2003-2004 clown series all possess a comical surface façade, but they have a range of emotional states.

The figures in Sherman’s society portraits struggle with impossible standards of beauty that prevail in a youth- and status-obsessed culture.

One of the inspirations for Sherman’s 2008 society portraits, according to MOMA Associate Curator Eva Respini, was a former soap opera actress who created a website for aging women who wanted to look fabulous.

Cindy Sherman

In Sherman’s latest work, she alters her appearance using digital techniques, particularly PhotoShop, instead of make-up and prosthetics.