Thursday, September 23, 2010

Crewdson's Latest at Gagosian: No Drama, and Brilliant

One of Crewdson's views of the Cinecetta studio in Rome
 Usually when a critic says photographs lack drama it's a bad thing. But in the case of Gregory Crewdson's new images, on view at the Gagosian Gallery in New York now, it's a brilliant thing, and I think a beautiful thing.

The photographs were made at the Cinecitta film studio in Rome, a legendary place where legends were transformed into film reality. Ben Hur's chariot race took place there. Martin Scorsese turned it into the infamous Five Points area of Manhattan for "Gangs of New York." The BBC and HBO turned it into Julius Caesar's hometown for its series "Rome."

Why create artifice when artifice is the subject?
 Crewdson says that he saw the studio while in Rome with a traveling show of his previous work and understood immediately how and why he would photograph it.

"It was one of those moments when I saw the entire project in my mind,” he says. “Black and white, small format, emptied-out sets. I wanted to make a connection back to the tradition of landscape photography."

Artifacts from our film dreams
 He notes that he wanted to "drain the drama" from the images, a goal that might simply be seen as a reaction to his past work: Large-scale, color images that looked like movies, suggesting narratives with lush, highly stylized, highly detailed set design and lighting.

A sample of Crewdson's previous work
 Approaching a setting where actual movies were made, where every detail suggests fragments of narratives known from films, Crewdson eased away from sensationalism. The crash of reality and fantasy was in the place itself and did not have to be elaborately manufactured.

Do you like this new direction from one of contemporary photography's biggest names? If nothing else, the new work may imply that the highly-charged "made-up reality" that has captivated fine-art photography over the past decade—a trend that Crewdson nourished while teaching at Yale—is coming to an end.

No comments:

Post a Comment