A recent group exhibition curated by Todd Levin saw a selection of works that combined to create a fascinating investigation of the doll as a transgressive figurative form. The term transgressive is central, it refers exclusively to graphic depictions that are taboo in that they violate perceived boundaries of acceptability. Two bodies of work by Cindy Sherman were shown alongside carefully selected individual works by other artists (some Surrealists) to highlight why it is that dolls can be so arresting, so affecting and so offensive when presented in a sexually distressed or exploited manner.
The first room displayed Sherman’s photographic series ‘Sex Pictures’ (1989 – 1992). The slumped body positions and tormented faces in the sex scenes express a real sense of loneliness and torture despite the fact they are very crude prosthetics and doll heads, as apposed to cute fluffy animals for example.
The images are disconcerting due to the specific point of view offered by the photographs. Untitled #257 (1992) captures a drop of fluid dribbling from a squatting crotch. The doll in Untitled #304 (1994) seems to make eye contact with the viewer. Both of these instances should be an impossibility of dolls and mannequins. Although Untitled #325 (1996) is a photograph of Cindy Sherman’s face behind a mask, the other works displayed in the exhibition seemed to only contain inanimate objects but sometimes it was difficult to be sure.