21 Films, which actually contains 25 titles, is a compilation of 16mm and 8mm shorts assembled by the artist. In these works, Sherman combines the hallmarks of his "Spectacle" performances—metaphoric juxtapositions and visual puns—with a fluency in film grammar. Through exquisite storyboarding and montage, Sherman transforms the mundane into the magical, blithely manipulating colossal forms (landscapes, bridges, chili parlors, skyscrapers, rollercoasters, escalators, and airplanes) like weightless props.
Writes Sally Banes in Millenium Film Journal, "Sherman's films are not slices of reality. His camera does not give us the sense that it is gliding over an endless continuum, recording objects and events that are everywhere and connected to more off-screen data. Rather, he returns to an earlier idea of cinema, composing pictures that suggest the proscenium arch of the theatre...calling attention to their own artifice. Like the Surrealists, with whom he shares both themes and methods, Sherman tampers with the ordinary in order to produce the marvelous."
Titles include: Globes (1977); Scotty and Stuart (1977); Skating (1978); Tree Film (1978); Edwin Denby (1978); Camera/Cage (1978); Flying (1979); Baseball/TV (1979); Fountain/Car (1980); Rock/String (1980); Elevator/Dance (1980); Hand/Water (1979); Piano/Music (1979); Roller Coaster/Reading (1979); Theatre Piece (1980); Bridge Film (1981); Racing (1981); Typewriting (Pertaining to Stefan Brecht) (1982); Chess (1982); Golf Film (1982); Fish Story (1983); Portrait of Benedicte Pesle (1984); Mr. Ashley Proposes (Portrait of George) (1985); Eating (1986); The Discovery of the Phonograph (1986).
Preserved by EAI in collaboration with the Fales Library & Special Collections, NYU and the Barbara L. Goldsmith Preservation Lab, NYU Libraries.
Camerawork: Babette Mangolte, Ken Ross, Mark Daniels, Octavio Molina, John Ligon, Paul Savage, Art Feinberg, Jacob Burckhardt, John McNulty, Leonard Puzzo.