This blog post was updated on October 5, 2018.
The Vivisector, a recently opened exhibition at Spruth Magers gallery in London, aims to reconsider two bodies of work by influential American contemporary artist and conceptual photographer, Cindy Sherman. Not for the squeamish or the easily offended, the show nevertheless provides fans of Sherman as well as those unfamiliar with her controversial work a chance to consider her art alongside that of some other big names in the world of contemporary art.
Curated by Todd Levin, The Vivisector delves into Sherman’s photographic series Sex Pictures (1989-1992) and Broken Dolls, her subsequent series of black and white images (1999). The exhibition’s title, refers to the act of cutting open a living organism for physiological or pathological investigation. It’s an idea that’s key to much of Sherman’s art and is especially evident in her Sex Pictures photos, which features mannequins and prosthetics in awkward and often grotesque positions that some would say verged on the obscene. Perhaps a testament to the artist’s vision and sustained relevance, the images still manage to unnerve and beguile the viewer.
Exhibited with Sherman’s pieces are works by artists with similar preoccupations with dolls and sculptural figures such as Morton Bartlett, Hans Bellmer, Bruce Nauman, Pablo Picasso and Frederick Sommer. Adding an adequately eerie backdrop for the show is The Doll Song from the Jacques Offenbach opera The Tales of Hoffmann which tells the story of a poet who is deceived into falling in love with a mechanical doll.
Mutilated, melted, dismembered and reconstructed dolls in violent and sexually explicit poses: this ain’t one to take the kids to. But to see art by one of today’s grandest agents provocateurs – and one of the highest paid photographers ever – shown next to – and contextualized by – art from the likes of Bellmer and Picasso, it might be worth keeping the little ones at home and occupied with their own less effed up dolls.
The Vivisector runs until 26 January 2013 at Spruth Magers London, 7A Grafton Street, W1S 4EJ. The nearest Tube station is Green Park, but Piccadilly Circus, Bond Street and Oxford Circus aren’t too much farther afield. It’s free for you to view Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Find out more at spruethmagers.com.
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Photo: Chris Osburn