Cindy Sherman and David Salle: History Portraits and Tapestry Paintings

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Coinciding with Frieze Masters, Skarstedt’s new exhibition aims to provide a renewed perspective on the significance of the artists’ earlier works and their influence on subsequent generations of photographers.
Dominant figures in contemporary art-photography, both Cindy Sherman and David Salle were part of ‘Pictures Generation’ art movement of the mid 1970s and 80s in New York, which drew upon existing imagery as inspiration.
First exhibited in London at Waddington Galleries in 1989 and Gagosian Gallery, New York, in 1991, David Salle’s Tapestry Paintings are a pastiche on sixteenth and seventeenth-century Italian and Dutch genre styles.
The background imagery is drawn from narrative scenes from historical tapestries, some of which are reproductions of famous works, others by an anonymous Russian tapestry-maker which Salle found reproduced in a magazine and copied onto canvas.
A select number of Tapestry Paintings were included in the touring retrospective of Salle’s work, which originated at the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam in 1999, though paintings from this pivotal series have not been exhibited since.

Lampwick’s Dilemma, 1989 oil and acrylic on canvas 94 x 136 inches © David Salle, courtesy of Skarstedt
Also overt in their stylistic references, Cindy Sherman’s History Portraits take their inspiration from noble historical paintings from the renaissance, baroque, rococo and neo-classical periods.
Inspired directly by painted portraits by Raphael, Caravaggio, Ingres and Rubens among others, Sherman uses a range of props and costumes in her classically composed images to play up to the clichés of subjective portraiture.
Throughout her extensive body of work, Sherman has assumed the role of both model and creator of her images. Through her use of props and obvious prosthetic body parts, she plays upon the stereotypes of women as portrayed in art and propagated in the media.
Invited to collaborate with the French porcelain house Limoges, Sherman made several images, notably Untitled #183, 1988, loosely based on Madame de Pompadour.
Continuing with her research of characters, Sherman created the CitoyennesCitoyens series, exhibited in Paris in 1989 for the anniversary of the French Revolution.
Expanding this theme during a prolonged stay in Rome, Sherman made thirteen portraits based on Renaissance paintings which were exhibited alongside the French series at Metro Pictures, New York in 1990. Sherman eventually made a third series of history portraits drawing inspiration largely from the Renaissance and the seventeenth century.
In the History Portraits, Sherman explores the traditional genre of painting with a multi-layered approach both physically and conceptually. The heavy draped fabrics that form the backdrops of the portraits and the rich, dense coloration of the photographic surface give physical form to her appropriation of this historical genre.
Designed by Thomas Croft Architects, the new gallery, titled Skarstedt, will show this and more exhibitions over 4,000 square feet of exhibition space.
Cindy Sherman and David Salle: History Portraits and Tapestry Paintings is at Skarstedt, London, from 1st October – 26th November 2016 For more information see here

Tom Seymour

Tom Seymour is an Associate Editor at The Art Newspaper and an Associate Lecturer at London College of Communication. His words have been published in The Guardian, The Observer, The New York Times, Financial Times, Wallpaper* and The Telegraph. He has won Writer of the Year and Specialist Writer of the year on three separate occassions at the PPA Awards for his work with The Royal Photographic Society.