Saturday, August 22, 2009

John Grande, My Cindy, Your Cindy through Sept. 3rd

John Grande's loving paintings of Cindy Sherman photographs aspire to translate her ideas and characters to large format, one of a kind oil paintings on canvas. When Sherman first presented her Untitled Film Stills in the late 70's her silver gelatin prints were less than 10" x 10". The characters in these tiny self portraits were layered with ambiguity, their clothes and make-up often at odds with their expressions. As the art world became more and more "macho", with artists such as Julian Schnabel celebrating their egos with enormous paintings in the 80's, Sherman's works were powerful enough to compete. In series after series she continued to produce work that addressed philosophical questions about art, photography, identity, and  feminist and critical theory all under the guise of a woman who loved to play dress up. Today Sherman's work is more powerful than ever, and her recent series of affluent women of a certain age is on an international tour. (Metro Pictures in New York is her primary gallery). Her work now commands high prices at auction and the Museum of Modern Art purchased the complete film stills.

But what if Sherman had been a male painter producing the same images on large scale canvasses from the beginning? How would this have affected her acceptance in the art world and the market value of her work? And what happens when a third party intervenes in self portraiture? Is there something of the third party that brings an "otherness" to the work? How does the dialogue about "the male gaze" shift now that a male is producing the work? Does the fact that these images were initially produced as editions and now they are one of a kind objects have any relevance to the ongoing dialogue between painting and photography? And if photography was supposed to bring about the death of painting, and most paintings end up being viewed as photographs anyway, does a painting of a famous photograph champion photography or painting?

Of course the central issue in this body of work is the straightforward appropriation of a celebrated artist. Though Grande meticulously studied Sherman's work and views these paintings as an academic project for the purpose of familiarizing himself with the work of an artist he admires, it cannot be denied that Sherman's ideas are the central element in the works. Clearly in art the "idea" and the "object", or the "manifestation of the idea" are distinct entities. Yet with intellectual property cases filling our courts today, what constitutes fair use? Is simply acknowledging the original author enough? What if one paints the original artist's name into the work, as Grande does in Untitled Portrait #13 (Library Cindy), altering the original to pay tribute? (Note the pun on Library, a place one goes to borrow things.) What if the original artist herself appropriated imagery and moods from filmmakers such as Hitchcock and Antonioni? Is it more OK to reproduce images by a famous artist than those by an unknown artist? Is it better to ask forgiveness than permission?

As Sherman writes in The Complete Untitled Film Stills, published by the Museum of Modern Art in 2003, "There are so many levels of artifice".

For more info and pricing contact Sara Nightingale at 631-793-2256.