Untitled Film Stills
Untitled Film Stills is a series of sixty-nine black and white photographs by American visual artist Cindy Sherman from 1977-1980, which gained her international recognition. The artist poses in various stereotypical female roles inspired by 1950's and 60's Hollywood, Film noir, B movies, and European art-house films. They represent clichés or feminine types (the office girl, bombshell, girl on the run, housewife, and so on) "that are deeply embedded in the cultural imagination." The character in all of these photographs are always looking away from the camera and outside of the frame. Sherman casts herself in each of these roles, becoming both the artist and subject in the work.The art historian Rosalind Krauss described this series as “copies without originals”. All of the images are untitled, as Sherman wanted to preserve their ambiguity. The numbers affiliated with individual works of art are assigned by her gallery, mainly as a cataloguing system. In December 1995, The Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) acquired all sixty-nine black-and-white photographs in the series. In past exhibitions at MOMA, the photographs are neither hung chronologically, nor grouped according to theme, locale, or content. Modest in scale compared to Sherman’s later cibachrome photographs, they are all 8 1/2 by 11 inches, each displayed in identical, simple black frames. The glossy finish and scale are meant to reference publicity or promotion stills for a movie. In the essay The Making of Untitled, Cindy Sherman reflects on her beginnings with this series:
I suppose unconsciously, or semiconsciously at best, I was wrestling with some sort of turmoil of my own about understanding women. The characters weren't dummies; they weren't just airhead actresses. They were women struggling with something but I didn't know what. The clothes make them seem a certain way, but then you look at their expression, however slight it may be, and wonder if maybe "they" are not what the clothes are communicating. I wasn't working with a raised "awareness," but I definitely felt that the characters are questioning something-perhaps being forced into a certain role. At the same time, those roles are in film: the women aren't being lifelike, they're acting. There are so many levels of artifice. I like that whole jumble of ambiguity. -Cindy Sherman
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- Sherman, Cindy (2003). The Complete Untitled Film Stills. New York, NY: Museum of Modern Art. ISBN 0870705075.