The Vivisector at Sprueth Magers, London, is a group exhibition curated around two series of photographs produced by American artist Cindy Sherman during the late 80s through to the late 90s.

Shown alongside these photographs is work by Morton Bartlett, George Bataille, Hans Bellmer, Bruce Nauman and Frederick Sommer.  The exhibition aims to re-evaluate the importance of these lesser-known parts of Sherman’s oeuvre by situating them alongside work of a shared theme. Sex Pictures (1989-1992), the group of her images exhibited in the gallery’s first room, are large, colour photographs depicting numerous mannequins and dismembered prosthetic limbs positioned in sexually suggestive possess. The second series, Broken Dolls (1999), is installed on its own in the second space and consists of low contrast matte black and white images of dolls and action figurines that have been hacked, melted, and dismembered.

Sherman’s best-known body of work is her series of film-still photographs in which the artist poses as if she where a stereotypical film actress. In stark contrast, her work included in The Vivisector is laden with violent sexual imagery and seems more akin to the puerile and humorous take on the grotesque seen in the work of the Chapman brothers. In addition to this, it contrasts with her better-known work because the role of the photograph’s subject has been delegated from Sherman herself to an assortment of dolls, dummies, mannequins, and figurines.

…back-and-forth of mindless aggression…

For the exhibition, curator Todd Levin has selected work by other artists who share a preoccupation with dolls, mannequins and other inanimate figurative forms and the possibilities of voyeuristic and fetishistic violence they open. One of the most interesting of these other pieces is Bruce Nauman’s Double Poke in the Eye 2, a multi-coloured neon wall sculpture that depicts two heads repeatedly poking each other in the eye. The two faces are caught in an endless, and quite hypnotic, back-and-forth of mindless aggression.

The Vivisector brings together a small but exciting selection of artwork and it is great to see a commercial gallery create such a stimulating exhibition that examines a hitherto little known body of artwork.

The Exhibition runs until January 26 2013

About The Author

Neil Jefferies is a curator based in London. He ran tactileBOSCH Gallery & Studios for two years before moving to London in 2010 to study an MFA in Curating at Goldsmiths, University of London. He won the Contemporary Art Society’s inaugural Starting Point Prize in 2010 and has previously developed exhibitions at Southampton City Art Gallery, Cell Project Space, and Zabludowicz Collection.

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