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David Rimanelli on giving his class homework

FOR THE PAST TWO YEARS I have given “Make Your Own Nan Goldin” as an assignment to the undergrads in my “Contemporary Art” survey course at New York University’s Steinhardt School. At the beginning of the semester I juxtaposed two contemporaneous and archetypal photographic series of the late ’70s and early ’80s, Goldin’s Ballad of Sexual Dependency and Cindy Sherman’s “Untitled Film Stills.” The emphasis on Goldin and Sherman derived in part from my impression that these artists were familiar to even the greenest (or most blinkered) BFA candidates, whereas Jeff Wall or Richard Prince weren’t necessarily. With a certain tendentiousness I often returned to these artists during the course’s unraveling; having initially emphasized their obvious differences, gradually I began to refer to the artists by a single sobriquet, “Cindy Goldin.” I guess I was suggesting—rather humorously, I thought—that

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