Cindy Sherman Explores Our Photo Editing Addictions at Hauser & Wirth

The work on view is about aging, and women becoming invisible as they age. Everyone, that is, except Sherman.

An installation view of “Cindy Sherman” at Hauser & Wirth New York. Courtesy of the artist and Hauser & Wirth / Photo Sarah Muehlbauer

Cindy Sherman, New York artist and trailblazer of the selfie, once said she hates being called “a selfie queen” and that the appellation is total “cringe.” But there’s no denying that Sherman is the de facto selfie queen of the art world.

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Sherman’s latest exhibition on view at Hauser & Wirth is a testament to that queendom. Her work is ever-relevant, especially given our society’s ever-growing dependency on, or addiction to, photo editing apps. The self-titled show, “Cindy Sherman,” puts more than thirty artworks on view, all of which feel like the natural continuation of the artist’s twenty-four-year exploration of photo manipulation—first with makeup, costumes and sets and more recently, with digital photo editing apps like Facetune, Photoshop, Perfect365 and YouCam Makeup.

Cindy Sherman, ‘Untitled #659.’ Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth

For the uninitiated, these apps are typically used to smooth wrinkles, dimples and cellulite with a swipe, like magic or a digital fountain of youth that conjures a perfect version of yourself. Celebrities like Kris Jenner have been called out for using Facetune, and Britney Spears has defended it. But far from being democratizing, women are now held to a higher level of impossible beauty frequently in the news for her “Facetune fails,” while Teresa Giudice has been called out by her fans for using so many photo apps and filters that she looks unrecognizable.

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Unsurprisingly, Sherman subverts the narrative in the works, all untitled, at Hauser & Wirth. Instead of editing herself into perfection, she courts imperfection: elongating her nose, thinning her lips, exaggerating her wrinkles and stretching her chin to comical proportions. The result is less ghastly than it sounds and much more absurd. There’s a Picasso-like cubist-era quality to some of the black-and-white portraits in “Cindy Sherman,” with their hints of peach-hued concealer circling her eyes. She has fun with sloppy black eyeliner and messy red lipstick, flattened to its two-dimensional, chaotic glory.

An odd looking black and white collage of a woman wearing fur and a head scarf
Cindy Sherman, ‘Untitled #646.’ Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth

The show’s smaller images, Sherman recently told The New York Times, were shot in 2010, using wigs and prosthetic noses. She turned them black and white in 2023 and subjected them not only to photo apps but also layering with close-up photos of her own skin taken with a micro-lens.

Fashion, inspiration and the irony of exposure

Sherman looks to fashion ads for inspiration when she shoots, which is somewhat ironic given that she has also starred in fashion campaigns—in character, of course. Just look at the latest Marc Jacobs campaign, where she poses in full regalia (brown curly wig, pencil-thin eyebrows, black lipstick) for fashion photographer Juergen Teller. She has also posed for Louis Vuitton, Comme des Garcons and Balenciaga.

Here, there are oversized microbladed eyebrows, Botoxed cheekbones and porcelain veneers. There are women dressed in leopard prints, with spray tans and coiffed hairdos and lipstick on their teeth. Each image could be an aesthetician’s worst nightmare, but strangely, they’re not uncomfortable to look at. They’re just flawed women.

A collage of an angry woman with some black and white elements and some color elements
Cindy Sherman, ‘Untitled #632.’ Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth

If her untitled series is a nod to our obsession with editing ourselves to perfection, her 2008 Socialite series  (in which she created photos of aging wealthy women a la the Upper East Side) could be seen as a mirror to Sherman today. It’s something she could conceivably become herself, as she turned 70 last month.

As she says on the gallery’s website, “When I’m shooting, I’m trying to get to a point where I’m basically not recognizing myself. That’s often what it’s about.” It’s also about aging, and women feeling invisible as they age. Everyone, that is, except Sherman.

Cindy Sherman” is on view at Hauser & Wirth on Wooster Street through March 16.

Cindy Sherman Explores Our Photo Editing Addictions at Hauser & Wirth