The Museum of Cycladic Art, Athens is pleased to announce a major exhibition of Cindy Sherman, the artist’s first solo museum exhibition in Greece. Cindy Sherman at Cycladic: Early works will bring together more than 100 works, offering a comprehensive view into Sherman’s ground-breaking and influential early series exploring how women are imaged in popular culture, including Untitled Film Stills (1977-1980), Rear Screen Projections (1980), Centerfolds (1981) and Color Studies (1982).
Sherman’s intersection of photography and performance in the late 1970s established her as an artistic pioneer. Working alone in her studio, she took on the roles of makeup artist, hairdresser, stylist and director, and transformed herself into the various characters depicted in her photography. Appropriating female images and stereotypes in television, film and advertising – such as the femme-fatale, career girl and housewife – Sherman’s work offers a critique of traditional gender roles and identity.
On display will be the entirety of Sherman’s Untitled Film Stills (1977–80) series. Consisting of 70 black-and-white photographs, Untitled Film Stills began after Sherman moved to New York City in 1977, aged 23. Inspired by 1950s and 1960s Hollywood, film noir, B movies and European art-house films, Sherman created images suggestive of the production stills used by movie studios to publicize their films. The images, reminiscent of certain character types and genres, initiated conversations about gender roles, feminism and representation, remaining always intentionally ambiguous and open to interpretations. On display in this section will be some of Sherman’s best-known works, including Untitled Film Still #21 (1978) which depicts a young career girl against the backdrop of the New York skyline.
In 1980, Sherman turned to color photography to create Rear Screen Projections. Incorporating a technique often used by Alfred Hitchcock, she posed in her studio in front of a large screen, onto which images of various sites were projected. In this way, she gained more control over the final image while extending her dialogue with cinema. The resulting images blur the lines of reality and artifice.
A year later, Artforum commissioned Sherman to create a series for the magazine, which led to Centerfolds (1981). Referencing erotic images found in men’s magazines at the time, this body of work challenged the popular way of consuming images of women, drawing attention to the voyeuristic gaze of the viewer. Among the works on display in this section will be Untitled #96 (1981) which features Sherman as a coy, sun-kissed young woman reclining on a patterned vinyl floor and Untitled #92 (1981) where she poses, fearful and crouched on the floor with wet hair.
In the large-scale vertical works of Color Studies (1981–1982), Sherman photographed herself looking directly at the camera, and by extension, at the viewer. As she continued to play with the constructed nature of images of women, her experimentation with color and shadow is prominent as seen in Untitled #113 (1982) which features Sherman smoking, her face only partially visible in the light.
Cindy Sherman at Cycladic: Early Works will reveal and deconstruct women’s roles and stereotypes, questioning how the representation of women has evolved over time, how societal expectations have changed and been contested, and how art can shape and challenge cultural perceptions.
The exhibition will take place within the context of the Museum of Cycladic Art, which holds one of the most complete collections of Cycladic Art in the world. The collection includes the famous female marble figurines of the 3rd millennium BC that most scholars have interpreted as depictions of a female deity associated with fertility and rebirth. Although their use and significance remain a mystery, they could be understood as reflecting the multiple roles assumed by women within societies across time.
The exhibition will be accompanied by a public program, including talks with curators and archaeologists expanding on Sherman’s interrogations of women’s societal roles, drawing connections with the Museum’s permanent collections and the exploring the multiple roles of women in antiquity.