"Gregory Crewdson: The Becket Pictures" at Fonds régional d'art contemporain Auvergne, Clermont Ferrand, France.
On view May 20 through September 17, 2017.
Whether composed in studio sets or installed in meticulously selected natural settings, Gregory Crewdson’s photographs generally require the manpower and technology of a movie production. Out of his entire oeuvre, only one series, Fireflies (1996), was made with the economy of means of a single photographer and his camera, without resorting to the slightest décor or elaborate postproduction usually applied to his images. This exhibition (the first in a French institution) features images of Fireflies together with the artist’s more recent series, Cathedral of the Pines (2013–14). The two series, made with diametrically opposed resources, temporally frame the period during which Gregory Crewdson’s universe was fleshed out, positing him as one of today’s leading figures in photography. The series that were made prior or simultaneously to Fireflies laid the foundations for a vocabulary subsequently developed in Twilight, Dream House, and Beneath the Roses. Nevertheless, Fireflies emerged in 1996 as an unexpected phase, and so atypical of Crewdson’s output that he discarded the series for a decade before deciding to make it public. As for Cathedral of the Pines, this corpus came into being after an almost 3-year-long creative block, and although these photographs do not forego the cinematic paradigm, they overtly reconfigure cinematic language in order to take deeper root in the history of painting, and to create a more deliberately intimate mood. It is enlightening to set up a dialogue between the nocturnal images of Fireflies with the staged scenes of Cathedral of the Pines, for despite the fifteen-plus years separating the two series, they were created at the same site—near the town of Becket, Massachusetts—and yet developed according to very different protocols. Beyond their strictly artistic aspects, these series each arose at a turning point in Gregory Crewdson’s personal path. The autobiographical dimension is significant, for it sheds light on the introspective thrust that has consistently been a creative impetus for Gregory Crewdson, while emphasizing the crucial role of site selection in his photographs.