It was in 1977 that Cindy Sherman began work on her breakout series of “Untitled Film Stills,” 1977–80, exhaustively restaging, before a still camera, the range of roles that defined women on the silver screen. Back then, publicity stills were routinely displayed in the lobbies of movie theaters. These were framed pictures, shot by professional photographers on production sets, that always diverged in their perspective, often subtly but sometimes dramatically, from the footage shown on-screen. It seems probable that these uncanny objects, suffused in celluloid fiction while also hinting at its construction, partly inspired Roland Barthes’s seminal deconstruction of cinema in “The Third Meaning,” which was first published in English that same year, and in turn would prove crucial to the early critical reception of Sherman’s work. Whatever the artist’s actual stake in poststructuralist
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