Magazine article Art Monthly

Gregory Crewdson

Magazine article Art Monthly

Gregory Crewdson

Article excerpt

Gregory Crewdson

White Cube Mason's Yard London April 23 to May 24

Gregory Crewdson is an artist at that point in his career when, from a critical point of view, all the ground has been covered. His work is linked to a major 'movement' in photography, so-called 'directorial style'; series by series, he has expanded and perfected both his craft and the ambition of his work; he has even got acolytes--a cluster of younger (women) photographers whom he taught at Yale, and whose work came to notice in the exhibition Crewdson organised in 1999, 'Another Girl, Another Planet'. It is all a bit of a dead end to discuss this, though. No doubt a thousand BA dissertations have been written on the subject already and, as one recent magazine article has reported, Crewdson's pictures are selling for 'six figures'.

So, in the face of this worldly process where an artist gets wrapped up in a ready-made package of journalistic consensus and commercial status, it is worth trying to find some critical purchase and accounting for what in his work is interesting, and how. I think it is interesting, but in certain specific ways. Contrary to general agreement, Crewdson did not invent the directorial style. The generation of artists directly previous to him did (Cindy Sherman, Jeff Wall, Crewdson's teacher in college, Laurie Simmons). Using narrative and deliberate artifice, these artists made the break with both street photography and the conceptualist photo-document, exploring the way photographs can make fictions as convincing as real things. Over the course of his career, Crewdson has upped the ante significantly, though. The key aspect of his work in this regard is its scale. This is what registers the significance of what he has done (and what makes him 'of his generation', with ambitions the same size as Olafur Eliasson, Matthew Barney and Andreas Gursky). Crewdson's work is bigger than the traditional medium of photography. His method is from film production and, in his most recent series of photographs shown at White Cube entitled 'Beneath the Roses', his subject is a whole town.

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There are, of course, key postmodernist tropes at play in his work: references to melodrama, the noir-ish scenes of suburban dystopia, and the sense of a story without any possible resolution. I would argue that Crewdson's work is significant because of its heightened visuality. These are not pictures that depend on specific texts or contexts. The point is the drama, not the story itself. This is what draws you to his pictures and has the potential to hold you, and once there you circulate without making any progress. …

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