frieze

Previous Shows RSS

Gregory Crewdson

White Cube, London, UK

image

Untitled (2006), from the 'Beneath the Roses' series

Gregory Crewdson’s photographs feature a series of ongoing and possibly connected dramas, located in small town America yet conceived on a grand scale.  They do a considerable amount to affirm the suspicion that the contemporary epic is increasingly located in the anonymous American landscape, each of the images in the now completed ‘Beneath The Roses’ series carrying a strong whiff of impending crisis.

Crewdson’s photographs are often described as cinematic, and they do layer David Lynch’s surreal dread over Alfred Hitchcock’s snap-trap narratives of suspense.  But, crucially, the photographs read in a manner that is entirely distinct from film.  Each image operates as a compacted drama, with the significance spread between various visual points within the image.  It is between these points that a density of meaning and narrative is constructed; in this sense, Crewdson references classical ideas of symbolic representation that are located in painting rather than cinema, or even photography.

image

Untitled (2006), from the ‘Beneath the Roses’ series

At times that meaning is conceived too concretely, as in The Mother (2007), an image of a woman sitting in the bath.  A bottle of pills is open on the sink top; a mirror reflects a pile of hastily discarded clothes and dictates a clear narrative of post-coital malaise. Brief Encounter (2006) features a similar pile-up of declarative meaning, from the words on a movie theatre marquee to the solitary figures on the street, to a bus sign that reads ‘Not In Service’.  The result is a somewhat overdetermined image, with singular rather than multiple layers of meaning.

Elsewhere, the work does little more than give an oppressive sense of atmosphere and mood, as in RBS Automotive (2007) or Trailer Park (2007), when the figures function more as objects than as characters.  They emerge as passive subjects in a drama that they have not necessarily perpetrated, the unfolding of which is beyond their control.  It is here that Crewdson’s work is most affecting, staging classical notions of dread and fate against an acutely contemporary backdrop.

Crewdson’s photographs are, in this sense, located firmly in the present tense.  And if the trauma operating at the core of the photograph is unclear, then that is precisely because it is ongoing, and has yet to be properly assessed. The strength behind Crewdson’s photographs lies in their ability to stage – and then extend indefinitely – the moment just prior to comprehension.

Katie Kitamura


Responses

There are no responses yet for this article.


Add a Response

Sorry, only subscribers and registered users may leave responses. Please log in or register.

About this review

Published on 19/05/08
by Katie Kitamura


Current Shows in this city

Previous Shows in this city

Other Articles by Katie Kitamura

RSS Feeds RSS

Hauser and Wirth
Gladstone Gallery
Marian Goodman
Gagosian Gallery
Chisenhale
Issue cover

Order Now

Issue 3 of Frieze Masters Magazine is out now. Order online from just £8.95.

Subscribe

Podcasts

Do you speak English? Added on 15/10/11 Frieze Projects 2011

Listen or Download

Stay updated

  • Follow frieze on Twitter
  • Connect with frieze on Facebook

Sign up to our email newsletter

test

Publications

Frieze New York Catalogue 2014 US $39.95 Buy the new Frieze New York Catalogue 2014

Buy Now

frieze: out now on iPad