Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Icon Madonna

 Icon of the day

Untitled Film Still #7

  From one artist to another. John Baldessari recently wrote that sliding glass doors were one of the things he hates most about Los Angeles and I was reminded of my own old Californian backyard entrance. Just as I was picturing it, Cindy Sherman walked through. She had invaded my memory, stumbling out of my San Mateo home just as she did in her seminal photograph, Untitled Film Series #7. That's an icon. One that infiltrates your childhood like a Bladerunner programmed replicant.
  The image comes from a series of self-portraits where Sherman takes back noirish and B movie depictions of women in generally referential tropes. #7 has always stuck out for me not just because I would have loved for this to have been an actual boyhood memory, but because it best captures the re-emergence of the icon taken back. She walks out of the abyss without spilling a drop of her martini, unembarrassed, well prepared for the daylight, and not really bothered by the new audience waiting for her. Yesterday's woman is pushed to the left part of the frame, sleeping with her face covered and dreaming of kissing seahorses.
 The image of Marilyn Monroe was designed by middle-aged men for middle-aged men. The original Like a Virgin era image of Madonna was designed by a young woman for teenage girls.  Two superficially similar styles with significantly different meaning, the second being re-iconed, just as Duchamp elevated the everyday object to icon status after 19th century museums had reduced functionally ceremonial iconic objects to mere "art". 
 As a champion iconographer, Cindy Sherman has done the same thing. She has returned the objectified woman back to religious status.

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