Explore the exhibition
For the first time, a joint exhibition brings together the work of the renowned Austrian artist Maria Lassnig (b. 1919, Carinthia, Austria, d. 2014, Vienna, Austria) and the ground-breaking US artist Cindy Sherman (b. 1954, Glenn Ridge, New Jersey) at Hauser & Wirth St. Moritz. ‘Maria Lassnig & Cindy Sherman’ comprises paintings and an animated film created by Lassnig between 1971 – 2008 and photographic works by Sherman spanning series from her Untitled Film Stills to her History and Clown portraits. The works on view investigate both Lassnig and Sherman’s unique explorations of female identity, highlighting themes such as the mother, the body, the clown, and the couple.
‘Maria Lassnig & Cindy Sherman’ takes as its point of departure the 1983 presentation ‘Selbstdarstellungen (Self-portrayals)’ at Berlin’s Haus am Waldsee, where the artists were exhibited in two separate shows under the same title, although they seemingly had little in common at the time. A crucial difference between the work of Lassnig and Sherman is their relationship to self-portraiture. For Lassnig, the selfportrait is central to her work; it has become an important vehicle for exploring her body and identity. For Sherman, it is almost the opposite. Her self-portrayal runs counter to the conventional understanding of the self-portrait, radically questioning and disposing of it. Sherman camouflages herself by repeatedly impersonating a myriad of stereotypical female characters within her series of photographs.
This construction of female identity is investigated in Sherman’s iconic series of Untitled Film Stills (1978), three of which are on view in St. Moritz. The artist impersonates stereotypical female caricatures inspired by Hollywood pictures, film noir, and B movies, exploring the tension between identity and artifice in consumer culture. In Lassnig’s animated film ‘Selfportrait’ (1971) made during her time in New York City, the artist features as herself, taking on a number of different roles and identities. Briefly shifting her priorities from painting during this time, motion pictures enabled Lassnig to expand and narrativise her ‘body awareness’ project and rigorous subjectivity.
The theme of the sexualised female body is confronted in the works ‘Traum vom Idealbusen / Busenwunsch / Busenillusion (Dream of the Ideal Bosom / Bosom Wish / Bosom Illusion)’ (1996-1997) by Lassnig and Sherman’s ‘Untitled’ (1988) from her History portraits. Here, Sherman deals with the fetishized and tabooed body within a historic and cultural context, whereas Lassnig’s work is an existential examination of her own fantasies. For Sherman, her work is an amalgamation of references taken from society, in contrast to Lassnig’s internal search for authenticity. Both works share a provocative yet humorous take on the subject matter.
Traum vom Idealbusen / Busenwunsch / Busenillusion (Dream of the Ideal Bosom / Bosom Wish / Bosom Illusion)
The exhibition continues on the first floor with works depicting the artists as clowns. In ‘Untitled’ (2005), Sherman poses as this character, at once playful and menacing, to explore the disparity between the exterior persona and interior psychology of her subject. Lassnig also looks at the clown’s fractured sense of self as a metaphor for her own identity through the guise of the Harlequin in her work ‘Selbst als Harlekin / Selbstportrait als Pierrot / Selbstportrait als Napoleon (Self as Harlequin / Self-Portrait as Pierrot / Self-Portrait as Napoleon)’ (1997).
Selbst als Harlekin / Selbstportrait als Pierrot / Selbstportrait als Napoleon (Self as Harlequin / Self- Portrait as Pierrot / Self-Portrait as Napoleon)
Concluding the presentation are works by both artists that explore sex and the couple. In ‘Frau und Mann (Woman and Man)’ (2007), Lassnig’s abstracted limbs of her subjects become at once intertwined and fragmented. A series of black and white photographs from 1999 featuring dismembered male and female dolls by Sherman, known as her Broken Dolls series, create abject and eerie images. Parallel to the question of identity, the artists’ questioning of the body as a fractured entity is central to their work.
About Maria Lassnig
Born in Carinthia in Southern Austria in 1919, Maria Lassnig’s (1919 – 2014) work is based on the observation of the physical presence of the body and what she termed ‘body awareness’, or ‘Körpergefühl’ in German. She studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna in the midst of the Second World War. Then, in post-war Europe, she quickly moved away from the state-approved academic realism in which she was trained, looking to Austria’s own avant-garde past, such as the coloration of Oskar Kokoschka and Egon Schiele’s expressionist treatment of figuration.
About Cindy Sherman
Born in 1954 in Glen Ridge, New Jersey, Cindy Sherman lives and works in New York NY. Her ground-breaking photographs have interrogated themes around representation and identity in contemporary media for over four decades. Coming to prominence in the late 1970s with the Pictures Generation group alongside artists such as Sherrie Levine, Richard Prince and Louise Lawler, Sherman studied art at Buffalo State College in 1972 where she turned her attention to photography.