Cindy Sherman, ‘Untitled #415’, 2004, Sotheby's

From Generation to Generation: Important Photographs from the Ames Collection

Flush-mounted, framed, signed, dated, and editioned '1/6' in ink, Metro Pictures and The Ames Collection, New York, labels on the reverse.

From the Catalogue:
In 2003, in the wake of the national trauma of September 11, Cindy Sherman embarked on a new and bold series. Clowns, Sherman’s first series since 2001, consisted of 18 self-portraits. In each photograph, Sherman transformed herself into a different clown, attempting to embody a host of collective American phobias in the years following the disaster. Inspired by circus posters, Sherman disguised herself with heavily painted facial features and vintage clothes. As she explained in a 2004 interview, her ‘pictures are supposed to look as if they were simply cut out of an advertisement for circus, with a stiff and artificial pose to sell the idea of the funny clown although [her] clowns are anything but funny’ (Cindy Sherman, quoted in 'No Make-Up. An Interview with Cindy Sherman, by Isabelle Graw,' Cindy Sherman: Clowns, p. 55).

In these sinister and arresting portraits, Sherman exaggerates the contemporary popular depiction of the menacing clown, with a painted face that obscures a true, malicious intent or dark emotion. In Untitled #145, she does so with three subtle references: the face paint, similar to that of Batman’s supervillain The Joker; a bowler hat and straitjacket-like belt, reminiscent of those worn by the ultra-violent gang in Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange; and the nearly black background, an anomaly for this series in which she usually posed in front of a psychedelic backdrops. The present clown holds not a lighthearted balloon animal, but rather an unidentified pink drink which looks more like Pepto-Bismol or poison than soda fit for children. As she did in her earlier series (such as Headshots, Lots 17 and 45), Sherman remains just visible enough underneath her makeup and clothes, reminding us that outward expression and inner psychology are not so distant from each other.

This series was first exhibited at Metro Pictures Gallery in New York in 2004 and quickly became one of her most iconic. At the time of this writing, no other print of this image is believed to have been offered at auction.
—Courtesy of Sotheby's

New York, Metro Pictures, Cindy Sherman, May - June 2004

Eva Respini, Cindy Sherman (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2012), pl. 144
Cindy Sherman: Clowns (Munich, 2012), unpaginated
Paul Moorhouse, Cindy Sherman (London, 2014), p. 136

Metro Pictures, New York, 2004

About Cindy Sherman

Cindy Sherman established her reputation—and a novel brand of uncanny self-portraiture—with her “Untitled Film Stills” (1977-80), a series of 69 photographs of the artist herself enacting female clichés of 20th-century pop culture. Though her work continually re-examines women’s roles in history and contemporary society, Sherman resists the notion that her photographs have an explicit narrative or message, leaving them untitled and largely open to interpretation. “I didn’t think of what I was doing as political,” she once said. “To me it was a way to make the best out of what I liked to do privately, which was to dress up.” Always in meticulous costumes, wigs, and makeup, Sherman has produced series in which she dresses as women from history paintings, fashion, and pornography. In the late 1980s and into the ’90s, she expanded her focus to more grotesque imagery, like the mutilated mannequins of her “Sex Pictures” (1992).

American, b. 1954, Glen Ridge, New Jersey, based in New York, New York