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Cindy Sherman / Stage Presence

SFMoMA, San Francisco

The first major exhibition of Sherman's work ever presented in San Francisco, this retrospective brings together more than 150 photographs made from the mid-1970s to the present. "Stage Presence - Theatricality in Art and Media" shines a spotlight on theatricality in the art of the last 30 years, presenting works in various media that defy the traditional divide between the visual and the performing arts.

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Cindy Sherman

From July 14 to October 8, 2012, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) will host the sole West Coast presentation of Cindy Sherman, a traveling retrospective of one of the most significant contemporary artists and arguably the most influential one working exclusively with photography. Known for photographing herself in a range of guises and personas that are by turns amusing and disturbing, distasteful and affecting, Sherman has built an international reputation for an extraordinary body of work. Tracing her career from the mid-1970s to present, the exhibition is the first major U.S. retrospective of the artist in nearly 15 years, introducing Sherman to a new generation of audiences.

Organized by Eva Respini of The Museum of Modern Art in New York (MoMA), Cindy Sherman brings together more than 150 photographs from both public and private collections, including key works from SFMOMA's own holdings. The presentation at SFMOMA is overseen by Erin O'Toole, assistant curator of photography, and is the first major exhibition of Sherman's work ever mounted in San Francisco.

Throughout her career, Sherman has presented a sustained, eloquent, and provocative exploration of the construction of contemporary identity, the nature of representation, and the artifice of photography. Her works resonate deeply with our visual culture, drawing from the unlimited supply of images from movies, television, magazines, the Internet, and art history. Today Sherman's work is the unchallenged cornerstone of postmodern photography.

Masquerading as myriad characters in front of her camera, Sherman has served as her own model for more than 30 years, constructing invented personas and tableaus. To create her photographs, she works unassisted in her studio, and assumes multiple roles as photographer, model, art director, makeup artist, hairdresser, and stylist. Through her skillful guises, she has created an astonishing and continually intriguing variety of culturally resonant characters, from sexy starlet to clown to aging socialite.

"Sherman's work is particularly relevant to today's image-saturated culture because she reminds us to be critical consumers of what we see," says O'Toole. "She holds a mirror up to contemporary society, calling attention to the strangeness of things we tend to see as normal, like fashion, makeup, and plastic surgery."

Exhibition Overview

Born in 1954 in Glen Ridge, New Jersey, Sherman received her BA from Buffalo State College and moved to New York City in 1977, where she has resided ever since. The exhibition showcases the remarkable range of Sherman's photography, from her early experiments as a student in Buffalo to her recent large-scale photographic murals, which are customized to fit each installation site. The presentation examines some of the dominant themes prevalent throughout Sherman's work, such as artifice and fiction, cinema and performance, horror and the grotesque, myth and fairy tale, and gender and class identity.

A selection of ambitious and celebrated works will be highlighted, including a complete set of the seminal Untitled Film Stills (1977–80)—70 black-and-white photographs that feature the artist in stereotypical female roles inspired by 1950s and 1960s Hollywood, film noir, and European art-house films—and all twelve of her centerfolds (1981), in addition to selections from her significant series of works: fairy tale/mythology (1985); history portraits (1988–90); sex pictures (1992); headshots (2000); clowns (2002–04); fashion (1983–84, 1993–94, 2007–08); and society portraits (2008).

The exhibition also premieres, in the U.S., a recently created photographic mural (2010–11) that represents the artist's first foray into transforming space through site-specific fictive environments. In the mural, Sherman transforms her face digitally, exaggerating her features through Photoshop by elongating her nose, narrowing her eyes, or creating smaller lips. The characters, who sport an odd mix of costumes and are taken from daily life, are elevated to larger-than-life status and tower over the viewer. Set against a decorative toile backdrop, her characters seem like protagonists from their own carnivalesque worlds, where fantasy and reality merge. The new work included in the retrospective offers an opportunity for reassessment in light of the latest developments in Sherman's oeuvre.

Catalogue and Exhibition Tour

A fully illustrated publication accompanies the exhibition, with essays by exhibition curator Eva Respini and art historian Johann Burton, as well as a new interview with Sherman conducted by filmmaker and artist John Waters.

Cindy Sherman premiered at MoMA in New York (February 26–June 11, 2012), and following SFMOMA's presentation, it will travel to the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis (November 10, 2012–February 17, 2013), and Dallas Museum of Art (March 17–June 9, 2013).

Cindy Sherman is organized by The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Major support for the San Francisco presentation is provided by the Fisher family, J.P. Morgan, and The Bernard Osher Foundation. Generous support is provided by Carla Emil and Rich Silverstein, Nion McEvoy, and the Bernard and Barbro Osher Exhibition Fund. The St. Regis San Francisco is the official hotel of this exhibition. Media sponsor: San Francisco Chronicle

Public Programs

In conjunction with the exhibition, SFMOMA will present Cindy Sherman Selects, a series of films—selected by Sherman—that have shaped her artistic vision. Reflecting a wide spectrum of genres and eras, the films highlight the extraordinary range of her interests and influences. Screenings will take place on Thursday evenings in July and August during the exhibition's run. Tickets are $5 for general admission; free for SFMOMA members or with museum admission.

Cleo from 5 to 7
Agnès Varda, 1962, 90 min., 35mm
Thursday, July 5, 7 p.m.
At 5 p.m. beautiful French pop star Cléo learns that she will know the results of a stomach cancer test at 7 p.m. In the intervening hours she wanders the streets of Paris, encountering a fortune teller, her song composers, a model friend, and a soldier, and indulging in existential reflection. With cameos by Jean-Luc Godard and Anna Karina. Print courtesy of Institut Français and the Cultural Services of the French Embassy and Offices of the French Consulate, San Francisco. In French with English subtitles.

The Beaver Trilogy
Trent Harris, 2000, 83 min., Beta SP
Thursday, July 12, 7 p.m.
The Beaver Trilogy comprises three segments shot at different times: in 1979, 1981, and 1985. The first, The Beaver Kid, is a mini-documentary featuring "Groovin' Gary," a small-town performer from Beaver, Utah. Gary's acts include impressions of John Wayne and Sylvester Stallone, and a performance in full drag as Olivia Newton-John. The second segment, The Beaver Kid 2, stars a young Sean Penn reenacting Groovin' Gary's Newton-John act, as "Groovin' Gary" Huff. Finally, in The Orkin Kid, Crispin Clover reinterprets Penn's performance, as "Olivia Neutron Bomb." Video courtesy of the filmmaker.

John Frankenheimer, 1966, 107 min., 35mm
Thursday, July 19, 7 p.m.
Frankenheimer's riveting film unfolds as a disillusioned middle-aged businessman is given the opportunity to be reborn as someone else through a mysterious organization known only as The Company. After faking his own death, he undergoes extreme plastic surgery and psychoanalysis and returns completely transformed as Tony Wilson, a handsome young painter played by Rock Hudson. As he lives out his seemingly idyllic new life, he begins to face the consequences of his decision. Print courtesy UCLA Film and Television Archive.

The Host
Bong Joon-Ho, 2006, 119 min., 35mm
Thursday, July 26, 7 p.m.
One of the best creature features of the last decade, The Host displays Bong's signature blend of horror and dark humor. A mutant creature created by human pollution surfaces from Seoul's Han River and terrorizes the town. In Korean with English subtitles.

Scott McGehee and David Siegel, 1993, 96 min., 35mm
Thursday, August 2, 7 p.m.
In this witty and cerebral murder mystery, Vincent Tower plots to kill his long-lost but nearly identical half-brother Clay and pass the death off as his own. Clay survives Vincent's car bomb, but suffers severe amnesia. With the help of a plastic surgeon named Renee Descartes, Clay sets out to reconstruct his identity—but as Vincent, the prime suspect in their father's murder. As Clay's memory begins to return, he must decide which life he will embody.

La Jetée and Meshes of the Afternoon
Tuesday, August 7, noon
La Jetée; Chris Marker, 1962, 28 min., 35mm
Meshes of the Afternoon; Maya Deren and Alexander Hammid, 1943, 14 min., 16mm
Museum and program admission are free.
As part of Cindy Sherman Selects, SFMOMA screens two influential experimental films. Composed almost entirely of still photographs and considered one of the most beautiful films of all time, La Jetée depicts an underground, post–World War III world, where drug-induced time travel is used to send a prisoner to the future for help. Meshes of the Afternoon, Deren and Hammid's best-known collaboration, exemplifies the filmmakers' signature style of beauty and surrealism.

Barbara Loden, 1970, 102 min., 35mm
Thursday, August 9, 7 p.m.
Set in the coal mining region of Pennsylvania, this film follows Wanda, an alcoholic who abandons her husband and children for a life of drinking and sleeping with strange men. Her world changes again when she walks in on a man attempting to rob a bar and ends up on the road as his partner in crime—a ride that leads them both toward the unexpected. Restored by UCLA Film & Television Archive with funding provided by Gucci and the Film Foundation. Print courtesy UCLA Film and Television Archive.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
Tobe Hooper, 1974, 83 min., 35mm
Thursday, August 16, 7 p.m.
The horror film classic The Texas Chainsaw Massacre follows a group of young travelers whose car breaks down in the middle of nowhere to their misfortune. Known for originating many of the staples of the slasher genre—such as a faceless killer and power tools as weapons—it also functioned as a critique of the meat industry.

John Cassavetes, 1959, 81 min., 35mm
Thursday, August 23, 7 p.m.
Part documentary, part fiction, Shadows explores race relations during the Beat Generation years in New York City. A model of independent film, it was shot with a 16mm handheld camera on the streets of New York, much of the dialogue was improvised, and the cast and crew were made up almost entirely of volunteers. A jazz-infused soundtrack complements the subject matter and the era in which the film was born. Print courtesy of UCLA Film & Television Archive.

Matthew Vaughan, 2010, 117 min., 35mm
Thursday, August 30, 7 p.m.
Based on a comic book, Kick-Ass follows the adventures of an average teenager, who, without any real powers or training, dons an Internet-bought green and- yellow wetsuit and sets out to become a real-life superhero. Along the way, he encounters fellow DIY superheroes Big Daddy (Nicholas Cage) and his preteen daughter Hit Girl (Chloë Moretz). Together they must ward off the evil of a local mobster and his teenage son, Kick Ass's arch-nemesis.


SFMOMA welcomes more than 650,000 visitors annually, and more than 46,000 students visit each year. Since opening its south of Market building in 1995, SFMOMA has added more than 13,000 works to its collections, 95 percent of which were donated, doubling its holdings to 26,000 works. At the same time, SFMOMA's family programs have increased fivefold, teacher training programs have increased sixfold, and gallery tours have expanded to 1,800. SFMOMA has mounted a series of exhibitions that have drawn both record attendance and critical praise, including recent exhibitions by Diane Arbus, Olafur Eliasson, Eva Hesse, Frida Kahlo, William Kentridge, Sol LeWitt, Richard Tuttle, and Jeff Wall.



Theatricality in Art and Media

14 July - 8 October2012

The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) blurs the line between fine arts and performing arts with its new exhibition Stage Presence: Theatricality in Art and Media, on view July 14 through October 8, 2012. Organized by Curator of Media Arts Rudolf Frieling, the exhibition presents works in a variety of media and features a series of performances that explore the influence of theater, dance, and performance in contemporary art.

Stage Presence gathers three decades of works by 40 artists including some key works from the SFMOMA media arts collection, all of which embrace theatricality in contemporary art practice. Exuberant manifestations of the "stage" emerge, such as beauty pageants; a dance troupe in post-punk London; artists dressed as a bear and a rat walking through the Swiss Alps; and a family occupying in-store Ikea model rooms. Some of the works are humorous and camp, while others are critical and subversive.

The exhibition also features site-specific contributions to the exhibition including an "Official Welcome" by Andrea Fraser, a new version of the performance which will be produced for SFMOMA at the July 13 exhibition opening reception; and Janet Cardiff's participatory project The Telephone Call (2001), a commissioned audio and video walk through SFMOMA. Equipped with a small digital camcorder with stereo headphones, visitors can journey through the museum by aligning onscreen images with the actual physical space and listening to an extraordinary narrative collage that includes Cardiff's voice, fragments of recorded music, and the artist's footsteps. This will be the last opportunity before the museum's forthcoming expansion to experience the work with the current building still providing most of the original settings.

The media galleries on the fourth floor will double as a cinematic screening room and a live performance space designed by Bay Area artist Tucker Nichols. Using a decidedly low-tech approach and a movable wall for the entrance, Nichols created two wallpaper designs from blown-up drawings, which are loosely reminiscent of a curtain and theatrical ornaments. Curated by Frank Smigiel, associate curator of public programs, a rich series of live acts—performances by Rashaad Newsome and Margaret Tedesco among them—will take the stage three days a week, alternating with the daily video screening program.

All together the presentation foregrounds the contemporary investigation of theatrical elements in art, creating shifts in our perception of performers and audience, of place and time, and the processes of identification and alienation.

"Theater, performing arts, and time-based media, often regarded as the opposites of the fine arts in the past, have deeply affected contemporary art over the last few decades," says Frieling. "The theatrical in Stage Presence eschews the catharsis of traditional drama, the limiting legacies of 1970s body performance, and the traditional realms of theater and film for a fusion of genres and histories."

The exhibition traces the influence of the theatrical in contemporary art with cornerstone historic works like James Coleman's Photograph (1998-99), a combination of projected image, audio narration, and the still images of a theatrical rehearsal in an artistic format that owes as much to the art history of painting and tableaux vivants as to the genres of theater and film. General Idea's installation Cornucopia: Fragments from the Room of the Unknown Function in the Villa dei Misterei of The 1984 Miss General Idea Pavilion (1982–83) appropriates media formats and settings such as the beauty pageant combined with a critique of consumer culture and commercial display. Subversion, humor, and transgression play key roles in these works and are equally present in Hail the New Puritan (1985–86), a seminal video work by Charles Atlas that features the life and art of Michael Clark and his dance troupe in an exuberant post-punk London.

Atlas's document of a 1980s attitude of transgression is matched by a group of sculptural actors: Geoffrey Farmer, Tony Oursler, Peter Fischli and David Weiss. In The Right Way (1983), an early feature-length film by Fischli and Weiss, the artists, dressed as a bear and a rat, walk the scenery of the Swiss Alps while their philosophical conversation unfolds. Craigie Horsfield's impressively scaled tapestry, Via Gianturco, Naples, February 2010 (2011), depicts an audience at a 99 Posse rock concert in Naples, Italy. The artist's use of the ancient medium of tapestry points to the fundamental ways in which digital software is married today to the field of craft and art history, from the weaving of a pattern to the pixilation of a digital image. Artists such as George Legrady, Sam Taylor-Wood, and Catherine Wagner add unique perspectives on the photographic representation of a dramatic space.

A generation of younger artists from Mika Tajima to Guy Ben-Ner, Gerard Byrne, Sharon Hayes, and Carey Young revisit the variability of formats such as performance, lecture, and the interview. Hayes, for instance, uses the Symbionese Liberation Army's kidnapping of Patty Hearst in 1974 to "respeak" the four audio tapes in which Hearst addresses her parents on the subject of her kidnapping. Tajima reformats her 2009 SFMOMA-commissioned collaborative production Today Is Not A Dress Rehearsal in which the scholar and professor Judith Butler rehearses a lecture.

Stage Presence is dedicated to the memory of artists David Weiss, George Kuchar, and Mike Kelley. Kelley prominently anchors the show with a dance "choreographed in the manner of Martha Graham" in Test Room Containing Multiple Stimuli Known to Elicit Curiosity and Manipulatory Responses. The video features an eclectic mix of ambiguous props with references to modernist sculptures as well as scientific and psychological laboratory experiments.
Artists in the Exhibition

Charles Atlas, Gerard Byrne, Janet Cardiff, James Coleman, Geoffrey Farmer, Fischli/Weiss, Andrea Fraser, General Idea, Sharon Hayes, Craigie Horsfield, Mike Kelley, George Legrady, Tucker Nichols, Tony Oursler, Mika Tajima with Charles Atlas, Sam Taylor-Wood, Catherine Wagner, and Carey Young.
Artists in the Daily Screening Programs

Victor Alimpiev, Guy Ben-Ner, Deville Cohen, Keren Cytter, Cheryl Donegan, Christian Jankowski, George Kuchar, Zbigniew Rybczynski, Rosemarie Trockel, and Robert Wilson.
Artists in the Performance Series

Organized by Frank Smigiel, associate curator of public programs, Stage Presence activates the fourth-floor galleries with a series of performances on Thursday evenings and weekend afternoons throughout the run of the exhibition.

Shana Moulton and Nick Hallett

Whispering Pines 10

Thursday, July 19; Saturday and Sunday, July 21 and 22

Moulton's alternate persona, Cynthia, moves between domestic spaces, technology, and mental (if colorful) breakdown in her ongoing video series. In Whispering Pines 10, she inhabits a virtual environment of live animation alongside an electronic opera score by Hallett, featuring soprano Daisy Press.

Margaret Tedesco

Catalogue #3

Thursday, July 26

Cameo, Night and Nights

Saturday and Sunday, July 28 and 29

Tedesco works across performance, installation, and photography. In these appearances she draws on and restages her 2005 work Cameo, in which a woman translates feature-length films with the sound off for an audience who cannot see the images. Catalogue #3 abandons the film for the inventory.

Anne McGuire

Music Again

Thursday, August 2; Saturday and Sunday, August 4 and 5

Drawing on her earlier video work I AM CRAZY, AND YOU'RE NOT WRONG (1997), Bay Area artist McGuire develops an in-gallery television special where live, simulcast, and recorded performers sing with and against each other. With her long-time collaborator Wobbly, she creates a new song cycle that can loop and change direction at any time.

Cliff Hengst


Thursday, August 9; Saturday and Sunday, August 11 and 12

Hengst is a San Francisco–based painter and performance artist. Here he presents a series of new and revisited solo works, including Stink Bomb, I Am a Tree, and Elvis. Hengst's pieces employ both wry and broad humor, zinging the audience with one-liners and also catching them in a warm embrace.

My Barbarian

Broke People's Baroque Peoples' Theater

Thursday, August 16; Saturday and Sunday, August 18 and 19

My Barbarian animates theatrical styles from Baroque spectacle to camp drag to riff on the absurdities of the American financial crisis. In a performance of wastefulness, trashiness, and class warfare, the characters confront their internal conflicts over patronage, money, artistic quality, and other myths.

D-L Alvarez and Kevin Killian

The Visitor Owl

Thursday, August 23; Saturday and Sunday, August 25 and 26

This collaboration between writer Killian, visual artist Alvarez, and the San Francisco Poets Theater features hyperbolic reenactments of two seminal Sidney Poitier films about high school: Blackboard Jungle (1955) and To Sir With Love (1967). Incorporating film and live performance, this production examines a dialogue between Cold War culture, student riots, and Hollywood depictions of pedagogy, racism, and adolescence.

Richard T. Walker

the speed and eagerness of meaning (longer longing version)

Thursday, August 30; Saturday and Sunday, September 1 and 2

Walker's meditative works combine spoken language, original music compositions, video, and photography to focus on the relationships among humans, language, and the environment. For this piece, Walker will perform in tandem with his film the speed and eagerness of meaning, adding another dimension to a work that explores the intersection of human consciousness and the natural world.

Rashaad Newsome's Shade Compositions

Thursday, October 4, 7pm

Haas Atrium

Rashaad Newsome's Shade Compositions takes up the body language and voice of certain women of color—wondering how a seemingly sassy street expression exists in its place and also extends across the globe as an open vernacular. "Girrl" is now a question, and not an answer. Newsome uses gaming technology to choreograph a chorus of twenty performers. Unlike previous iterations, the SFMOMA performance will include local women artists and also drag performers. The siting of the piece here will meditate on the changing footprint of the African-American community in the Bay Area and also on the way queer culture has drawn sustenance and inspiration from the iconic "black diva."

Just for members:

Andrea Fraser

Official Welcome

Friday, July 13, 7 p.m.

Haas Atrium

Andrea Fraser's work across video and performance often occupies art institutions to highlight their hidden histories, customs, and language. In this new staging of her 2001 performance Official Welcome, Fraser inhabits the SFMOMA member party for the openings of Cindy Sherman and Stage Presence. A recording of the performance will later go on view in Stage Presence.


Image: Cindy Sherman
Untitled #193, 1989
Courtesy the artist and Metro Pictures, New York
© 2012 Cindy Sherman

Media Contacts

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