The various personas animating this new body of work were created as shrines to nondescript, eccentric characters who might also be seen to denote sentries, guarding the entrance to some fabled land, casting ambiguous and disconcerting glances at the viewer.
The combined costumes, poses and facial expressions change dramatically from one figure to the next, enabling the viewer to observe the artist’s permutations of identity from a seated fragile middle-aged dame to an unconvincing medieval soldier. Each character poses against an incongruous backdrop – a landscape image printed in black and white – reminiscent of ‘toile’: a type of decorating pattern frequently used on home furnishings and wallpaper.
The Untitled (2008) series was characterised by a group of almost life-size ageing American socialites. In the photographic murals, the figures are enlarged even further to epic proportions, the grand scale serving to intensify the tension, vulnerability and uncertainty exuded by Sherman’s theatrical types. The athleticism of one figure is subtly undermined by the detail of Sherman’s performance; the pulled up sport socks & trainers, cropped blonde wig and colourful batons do not reveal the same pride or superiority implied by the character’s confident stance and haunting glare. The same black trainers reappear on another of the characters, implying that they are all mysteriously linked together. Indeed Sherman’s abandonment of make-up in favour of minor digital adjustments unintentionally results in the disquieting affect that each figure stems from the same ‘family’. Sherman’s decision to eschew make-up as the most effective means of accentuating or de-emphasising the features brings us back to her earlier works.
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