Stuart Sherman (19452001) was a writer, visual artist, and theater/film/videomaker. He was a 1990 Guggenheim Fellow.
- Obituary: Stuart Sherman by Adrian Dannatt — The Independent (London), October 3, 2001
- In Memoriam: Stuart Sherman (1946–2001) by Richard Foreman — Millennium Film Journal No. 38 (Spring 2002)
- Profile: The "Queerest" Conclusions: The Theater of Stuart Sherman by Kenneth Bernard — American Drama, Summer 2005
- Stuart Sherman Performs at MIT: An Interview — The Tech – Volume 105 > Issue 14 : Tuesday, April 2, 1985
The New York Times — September 20, 2001
Stuart Sherman, Performance Artist and Playwright, Dies at 55
By MEL GUSSOW
Stuart Sherman, an innovative performance artist and playwright who also worked creatively in film, video, sculpture and other visual arts, died on Friday in San Francisco. He was 55. Mr. Sherman lived in Manhattan but had been peripatetic in recent years.
The cause was AIDS, said his executor, Mark Bradford.
Idiosyncratic and unclassifiable, Mr. Sherman was an avatar of the avant-garde. As a theatrical miniaturist, he created landscapes in cameo, manipulating objects that could fit in a suitcase. In that sense he was the opposite of Robert Wilson and other grand-scale conceptualists. But in his own way, he had an expansive view of the artistic universe, referring to his tabletop work as spectacles. From the outset of his career, his obsessions were evident. He was concerned with the transformation of ordinary objects (boxes and blocks, toys and neckties), with stop-action kineticism and visual puns.
In some of his pieces, he was like a sidewalk pitchman, setting up a table and delivering postcard lectures. In a trilogy of brief plays he commented on Chekhov, Strindberg and Brecht. In his 12-minute "Chekhov," Mr. Sherman set his stage with cutouts of six trees, covered with dialogue from the author's plays. Even before actors emerged from the cardboard forest, as a designer Mr. Sherman conjured up the spirit of Chekhov.
Eventually, he took his art on world tour, literally as well as textually, offering snapshots or "living paintings" of Paris, Cairo, Tokyo, St. Petersburg and other cities. He performed in major museums (throughout the United States and Europe) as well as in small experimental theaters. But even as he won awards (a Prix de Rome, a Guggenheim Fellowship and an Obie, among others) he remained relatively unknown to the public and was never financially secure.
As Mr. Bradford said: "He would do his work anywhere for almost nothing for an audience of nobody. But the work mattered to him. He knew it was special and was intent on it not disappearing." This is one reason he wanted it preserved on film.
Mr. Sherman was born in Providence, R.I., and attended Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio. He is survived by two brothers, Mandel, of Providence, and Ronald, of Attleboro, Mass.; and a sister, Sue Ellen, of Orlando, Fla.
Early in his career, he wrote stories and poems and worked as an actor in New York with companies run by Charles Ludlam and Richard Foreman. Propelled by a need for self-invention, he began manipulating, or, in his word, recontexting objects in 1975. His first performances were in his living room. Soon he moved into theaters and also streets and parks.
Later he branched out to film and videos and offered his response to classical texts. He recreated "Hamlet" and "Oedipus" and presented a five-minute "Faust." In contrast to many other experimental artists, his work was quick paced. Blink and the "play" had ended.
He readily identified Magritte as an influence, but in his deadpan humor he was equally indebted to Buster Keaton. Although his work was known more for its physical presence than its literary content, he was deeply concerned with semiotics, calling his approach "language without language." "I have always had a 'literary bent,' " he explained, "and in a sense consider everything I do a form of writing."
One example of that was his interest in and relationship with Carson McCullers. In the mid-1960's, he arrived unannounced at McCullers's home in Nyack, N.Y., and was invited to be her companion. He lived with her and read to her in the last year of her life. Writing about their relationship, he said, "Quite suddenly, intimacy appeared between us, like an uninvited guest whose presence is nonetheless entirely welcome."
Trying to characterize his work, he said that when he used an object in performance, "it turns into the thing itself and all the possible associations that go with it all the natural metaphorical resonances of an object."
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