DEFIANCE AND GOOFINESS in her aging process. The artist Cindy Sherman emerges from a slump with vivid new work. And The World Students Society honours The Master.

The facial features in Cindy Sherman's hyperenergetic new photo-portraits slide around crazily. Eyes spin out in different directions, competing, clamorously for attention.

Noses and Mouths engage in pitched conflict. The electrifying images, now on view at  Hauser & Wirth's SoHo gallery in New York, are primarily black and white but there are patches of vivid color.

Butting one fragment of skin, make up, hair and headgear up against another, Sherman dispenses with the capacity of Photoshop to smooth out edges. Instead, she creates a sense of instability by folding photographic nips and tucks right in with their aging subject's wrinkles.

Finding physical comedy in the efforts women take to conceal the effects of time is the least of her concerns. There is also the dark humor she brings to the consideration of photography's credibility. And the dash of pathos she adds to both.

When Sherman emerged, meteorically in the late 1970s, it was with an extended series of black and white photographs she had taken of herself. They are not to be confused with self-portraits.

In each, Sherman, newly arrived in New York City from Buffalo, was made-up and dressed to suggest she was the [fictional]  star of an [imaginary] norish film.

Her timing was perfect.

The body-baring, soul-searching feminist art of the late '60s and early 70s had given way to more conceptually based work.

Femininity was understood to be a cultural construct, a masquerade, and Sherman's photographs were considered exemplary of this turn.

In the following decades, quite independently of the politics swirling around her. Sherman continued to deploy her face and body in fanciful guises that ran the gamut from an Italian Renaissance Madonna to an All-American clown.

For all its jangly discontinuities, the current work [ all untitled ] feels newly grounded. It emerged, Sherman told me, from a creative slump.

In a conversation at the gallery, where her show runs through March 16, she was warm and open, as we settled in, she admitted " I was going through a real Covid block during Covid.'' She had committed to the show in New York and and a previous one in Zurich, and she said :

I had no idea what I was going to do,'' While  ''fooling around'' with a body of photographs from 2010 - in color, as usual - she decided to flick them to black and white. It clicked.

The smaller works in the exhibition [ dated 2010/ 2023 ] were assembled from the 14-year-old photographs. 

The larger ones, extending the series, are all new, made with a different camera that permitted higher resolutions - making the mood harsher or lighter just by breaking the contrast,'' she said.

They seem less like '' something you would have just shot with your phone and put on Instagram. ''

Sherman and I met on a frigid, sleety day, and she was dressed fashionably to defy the weather in a big, blazing orange sweater. light-colored wide pants and bouncy, thick-soled white high-tops.

By contrast, her face devoid of makeup, is pretty in a timeless way, her eyes innocently blue. Only her shoulder-length hair, once blond and now gray, suggested she was turning 70.

She is a proverbial blank slate, and for all her fame, she is rarely recognised on the street.

Sherman sees the disjunctions in her new work's faces almost as an exercise in cubism.

'' You're seeing the face and imagining that it's moved through space,'' she explained.

The Publishing continues. The World Students Society thanks Nancy Princenthal.


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