Long Lost

Rare Cindy Sherman Self Portraits From Austria’s Verbund (Photos)

In an exclusive, see the early self-portraits the MoMA exhibition didn’t show. By Blake Gopnik.

Courtesy of Cindy Sherman and Metro Pictures (4)

Courtesy of Cindy Sherman and Metro Pictures (4)

When Cindy Sherman began to take her famous pictures of herself, she changed the history of art—and of photography. The Museum of Modern Art has recognized that fact with the full-scale Sherman retrospective that will close in New York in two weeks. (I discussed it when it opened.) What that great MoMA show doesn't quite make clear is how very early Sherman hit her stride. Sherman came up with her world-famous Untitled Film Stills in 1977, after she'd moved to New York from Buffalo, where she'd been studying. But from early in her student years at Buffalo State she'd already figured out the direction her artmaking would take. (A show now at Buffalo's Albright-Knox Art Gallery looks at Sherman and the rest of the local art scene.) On June 1, the Austrian Verbund collection will be releasing a complete catalog of the artist's very earliest—and amazingly mature—self-portrayals, and we've gathered a few of them in this Web gallery. Most have never been seen before.

– Blake Gopnik

Courtesy of Cindy Sherman and Metro Pictures

Pleasure-Me Cindy

One photo from a series of eight that Sherman shot in 1975, showing a woman—herself, as always—miming orgasm. In the seventh photo, she shows herself smoking and in the last she's put on her hat to leave.

Courtesy of Cindy Sherman and Metro Pictures

Cindy at Work

In 1976, Sherman gave a presentation on her art that included 26 color slides illustrating her working methods. In this one, she achieves something very close to her later Untitled Film Stills.

Courtesy of Cindy Sherman and Metro Pictures

Cindy, You've Got Some 'Splainin' to Do

In 1975, just for some dress-up fun, Sherman channeled Lucille Ball, then recorded herself in a photo booth. Her stunning skills at self-transformation were acquired amazingly early.

Courtesy of Cindy Sherman and Metro Pictures

Cindy the Vamp

A hand-colored self-portrait shot in 1975, from a series of three. This time, the casual photo-booth look was faked by Sherman.

Courtesy of Cindy Sherman and Metro Pictures

Cindy on the Bus

In November 1976, Sherman showed a series of photos in the advertising strips inside a Buffalo bus. Earlier street photographers had shot patrons on public transportation; Sherman turned herself into dozens of different riders. (Recent research by Gabriele Schor, curator of the Verbund collection, has revealed that Sherman's original figures had been shown as cutouts.) 

Courtesy of Cindy Sherman and Metro Pictures

Supermodel Cindy

One of the three photos in a 1976 series called Cover Girls (Vogue). The first photo was a straight copy-shot of a Vogue cover featuring Jerry Hall. In the second and third, Sherman inserted herself in place of the model and mugged for her own camera. (Her impersonation of Hall is astounding, especially when you think that it's pre-Photoshop.)

Courtesy of Cindy Sherman and Metro Pictures

Cindy on Show

Sherman transforms herself again, in one image from 1975 that documents her real-life role-playing as the character Rose Scaleci—named before Sherman had ever heard of Marcel Duchamp's alter-ego as Rrose Selavy. (The pictures in the background are by her then-boyfriend, and future art star, Robert Longo.)

Courtesy of Cindy Sherman and Metro Pictures

Metamorphic Cindy

One of several series of self-portraits that Sherman showed in 1975, in one of her first group exhibitions.

Courtesy of Cindy Sherman and Metro Pictures

Cindy Gets Lost

This and other photos from the 1975 series survive only in reproduction. The originals have yet to turn up.