Cindy Sherman: From Pop Art to the New Web

Carri Munden, the designer behind the avant garde streetwear brand Cassette Playa, writes a weekly blog for Vice Style and she recently talked about visiting New York City and seeing the Cindy Sherman Retrospective at MOMA.  Munden discussed at length the impact Sherman has had not only on her own perspective on culture, but also the arts in general.  So much of Sherman’s work is concerned with the idea of persona and a chameleonic identity that can be completely changed and altered through makeup, fashion, and specific stylistic cues.  Sherman’s use of photography has anticipated so many different cultural trends and movements, including the ever-changing culture of the online world.

Munden’s blog sets up an almost linear evolution of both Sherman’s work over the years and how its influence has predicted different facets of the arts.  From the ganguro trend of Japanese street culture where girls tan their skin and dye their hair blonde as an exaggerated version of common hip hop tropes, to Ryan Trecartin’s absurdly decorated, but oddly contemporary caricatures in his films that embody post-human persona and identity transformations.  Even Tumblr culture stars like Molly Soda and bon vivant Lady Gaga are also referenced in retaining at least some her influence.  Whether or not it’s purposeful they definitely both owe something to Sherman’s aesthetic, where both Tumblr and Gaga have a distinct focus on transformation, cultural identity, and the ability to utilize culture to create and elaborate on an infinite number of personas.

Munden’s own aesthetic for her label Cassette Playa also completely embodies Sherman’s idea of modern day dress up and subverting fashion and design culture to create any persona you can conjure up.  Cassette Playa’s clothing is very often a complex pastiche of some of the best in vintage and one-off fashion trends completely altered into a one of a kind style that simultaneously encompasses familiar trends of the past while evoking an entirely alien futuristic feel.

One of the most prevalent examples of Sherman’s influence really lies in the world of Tumblr culture and online personas.  So much of her vantage point and aesthetic is found in the creation of characters through makeup, fashion, and design which seamlessly translates to the current world of Social Media.  Sherman creates these photographs to comment on what encompasses identity and how easily we can be manipulated through how culture is presented, which is exactly what’s become commonplace on Tumbler and Social Media in general.  As Munden puts it Sherman basically invented the GPOY, or “Gratuitous Picture Of Yourself”, except her photos are purposefully imitating cultural norms and satirizing their aesthetic and expectations, while the current version achieves the same effect without actually realizing it’s become a parody of itself.

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