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Cindy Sherman exposed: Three decades of a master masquerader's photos on display

Cindy Sherman / Courtesy Museum of Modern Art

Untitled Film Still #21, 1978 - Sherman's "Untitled Film Stills" series, comprised of 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.

Cindy Sherman / Courtesy Museum of Modern Art

Untitled # 213, 1989 - Sherman's history portraits make allusions to paintings by Raphael, Caravaggio, Fragonard and Ingres.

From an eerie clown to a society doyenne to a nubile milkmaid, photographer Cindy Sherman has masqueraded as a series of characters in front of her own camera, producing books and exhibitions that have gained international attention. Now, for the first time in 15 years, work that spans the master of disguise’s entire career, from the mid-‘70s to the present, will be on display in one place: New York’s Museum of Modern Art.

“I think Cindy Sherman is more contemporary than she’s ever been,” says Eva Respini, associate curator at the Museum of Modern Art. “I think we’re in a media-saturated society, where everyone can be their own star, and everyone is taking pictures of themselves and posting them to Facebook or any other kind of social media outlet, and I think her work definitely picks up on that, and responds to that.”

To create her photographic portraits, Sherman works unassisted in her New York studio. She is the photographer, model, art director, make-up artist, hairdresser and stylist.

“The really important thing about her work is they’re not self-portraits,” notes Sarah Evans, assistant professor of contemporary art history at Northern Illinois University. “They’re portraits of the types of images that surface in our world. She’s mirroring the media in a way that’s especially important for women.”

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 will not admit to being a feminist, according to Evans, but her work has been interpreted as having strong feminist themes.

“Many feminists,” Evans added, “have adopted her work as one of the most historically significant examples of feminist art.”

Cindy Sherman, which includes 180 photographs spanning the artist’s career, will be on display at New York’s Museum of Modern Art from Feb. 26-June 11, 2012. The exhibit will then travel to San Francisco, Minneapolis and Dallas.

Cindy Sherman / Courtesy Museum of Modern Art

Untitled #96, 1981 - Part of Sherman's centerfolds series, this photograph sold for a whopping $3,890,500 in May 2011, making it the most expensive photograph ever sold. It held that record until November 2011.