The Lady Vanishes

The show's newer half is devoted to similarly unfulfilled New York and East Coast types, from Fifth Avenue matrons to Jersey mall chicks. Here, too, Sherman's satire is sharp but shaded with affection. The brittlest of these women, self-satisfied social climbers in gowns and jewels, aren't cut much slack, but many more have a hard-won feistiness or stubborn hopefulness that Sherman inhabits with particular verve. If few of these gals are lovable, they've all got a kind of nutty integrity. Their attempts at tastefulness are pathetic, but Sherman never seems to hold her subjects up for ridicule. Even when she edges into grotesquerie (with makeup so expressionist it approaches painting), she's not cruel, only savagely comic.

A motley sisterhood united by bad makeup and failed aspirations: two images from the Untitled (2000) series
photos: Courtesy of Metro Pictures
A motley sisterhood united by bad makeup and failed aspirations: two images from the Untitled (2000) series

Details

Cindy Sherman
Metro Pictures
519 West 24th Street
Through January 6

Without muffling her wit, Sherman returns from doll-decapitation hell kinder and gentler. Don't expect some Family of Man sentimentalist spreading sweetness and light, but Sherman seems relaxed, refreshed. For the first time in years, she allows us to project our fantasies onto her work rather than repelling our attention. Though the new series is transitional, not masterful, Sherman's presence, however evanescent, signals a return to a position of strength from an increasingly isolated outpost of alienation and anger.

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