New York

Cindy Sherman

Metro Pictures

Many of Cindy Sherman’s new color prints, most of them larger than lifesize, bring back memories of the photographic layouts that fashion magazines used to run of actresses wearing clothes keyed by the movies that had put them in the big time; Faye Dunaway wearing “Bonnie” outfits was one such memorable instance. A few others suggested old Life and Look features on actresses in their Bel Air lairs. Sherman’s images, though, are anything but nostalgic, and they are not campy. Jauntily enough, accurately enough, they consecrate a renewed marriage, telling us that fashion has for some time been taking its cues from art, not Hollywood, and that more and more “at home” spreads in the popular glossies are centered on the studios and personas of newly glamorized if sometimes physically eccentric specimens. With this to ponder, the sight of Sherman just kinda standing there in a rococo bondage jumpsuit by Jean-Paul Gaultier is pretty funny—and since she is in any case good-looking, the joke is not at her expense, not at anyone’s expense. It simply and quite mirthfully extends itself: Louise Nevelson (or Bourgeois) peeling off a fur? Things were a lot tougher for Lynda Benglis back in 1974.

Sherman began this series with an agreement from the management of Dianne B., purveyors of avant-garde threads. The store would be given a choice of photographs to be used for advertising, Sherman would get to use the clothes for the setups. No fiduciary interests were violated in the exhibition—an appealing arrangement in which all commercial ends were met without overlap. For the pictures Sherman obscured or generalized her backgrounds, and in becoming her own sole focus is less “herself” than ever. Sherman created of herself the ultimate Fashion Victim. Fast-lane Leisure Life clothes by Jean-Charles de Castel bajac prompt L.A. domestic pastorales in soft, spalike Elizabeth Arden colors. The NoBrechtian advance of Rei Kawakubo and Issey Miyake result in exotic, disgruntled, theatrical lamentations in smudged makeup. Saucy shopgirl styles from Dorothée Bis produce a tribute, also seen at the Whitney last year, to all those iron-lunged little birds of song from Edith Piaf to Ethel Merman. Gaultier’s sophisticated hooker looks get a high-contrast, no-nonsense photographer’s studio treatment. These were big, smart, well-produced images of a frivolity that only the truly serious can command.