Image: Behind the Scenes Image from Cathedral of the Pines (detail) © Crewdson Studio. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery.
In this short essay, Clare Grafik considers her first encounter with Gregory Crewdson’s work, in relationship to his new project Cathedral of the Pines, currently on view at TPG. The essay is available in the new issue of Loose Associations, our gallery publication dedicated to photography and image culture.
I first came across Gregory Crewdson’s work in a catalogue of the now seminal MoMA exhibition Pleasures and Terrors of Domestic Comfort by Peter Galassi in 1991. This exhibition and book featured establishment figures from the American photographic scene such as Lee Friedlander and William Eggleston, alongside artists including Cindy Sherman, Laurie Simmons, Nan Goldin and the emerging figures of Philip-Lorca DiCorcia, and Crewdson himself. The dynamism of Galassi’s curation, which juxtaposed works across genres and contrasted established and experimental practices, was formative for a new generation of photographers. Pleasures and Terrors… also excavated a subject which would continue to fascinate and inspire Crewdson in particular: the contemporary state of the American Dream and the dark underpinnings of the suburban psyche.
Crewdson’s early images, which utilised maquettes of small town streets and off-scale taxidermy animals, were striking surrealist dioramas. However, it was his two subsequent series Twilight (1998-2001) and Beneath the Roses (2003-08) that would identify him as a groundbreaking image-maker. Using production crews, lighting experts, actors and meticulous post-production processes, his photographs were cinematic in both scale and subject – relating more closely to the work of American filmmakers or painters such as Edward Hopper than to photography. Crewdson cites David Lynch’s 1986 neo-noir drama Blue Velvet and Spielberg’s earlier science fiction masterpiece Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) as particularly influential. However, Crewdson’s meticulously constructed mini-dramas deliberately hint at a narrative which never unfolds.
Behind the Scenes Image from Cathedral of the Pines © Crewdson Studio. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery.