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A Master Photographer Returns to Staging the Surreality of Suburbia

A new exhibition and book illuminate all things Gregory Crewdson.
Gregory Crewdson: Reclining Woman on a Sofa (2014) from Cathedral of the Pines © Gregory Crewdson. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery

Call it "Renaissance Rural," "Operatic Americana," or, "Melancholy Chic," but the influential style of photographer Gregory Crewdson has been capturing eyes with rays of magic-hour light for decades. Now, the Gagosian Gallery launches a new exhibition, Cathedral of the Pines, in NYC, alongside an Aperture book by the same name.

Crewdson’s special gift is creating fictional images of a very real world and composing operatic tableaux enacted in real places, using real local residents. With a mysterious depth, both visual and narrational, like Lynchian gestures without the heavy-handed surrealism, his photographs offer allegory, metaphor, and melancholy. The works are subtle yet wondrous, Turner-esque natural beauty.


Gregory Crewdson: The Haircut (2014) from Cathedral of the Pines © Gregory Crewdson. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery

The photographer up and moved from Brooklyn to the quasi-remote woods of Western Massachusetts. This landscape visually and atmospherically matches his penchant for moody, luminous, muffled poetics. His most recent body of work, the images exhibited at Gagosian and featured in the book, show cinema-level productions in the forest, as well as staged interior scenes, and inscrutable events unfolding around the town’s streets. The familiar settings capture people in uncanny situations, standing under a bridge naked when it’s freezing out, or staring off into space at home in their underwear like slow-breathing statues.

Gregory Crewdson: Beneath the Bridge (2014) from Cathedral of the Pines © Gregory Crewdson. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery

Those woodland-nestled towns and their real life residents are the inspiration for Crewdson’s high-production projects; Cathedral of the Pines is named after one of Becket, best-known forest trails. But long before Crewdson became a Becketian, he was already finding his muses among the area’s towering pines, icy streets, and family diners. Like some kind of madcap love child of Jean Cocteau and Henry David Thoreau, with some pre-Modernist art historical ancestry in the mix, his photographs capture a magical essence.

For the exhibit's press release, Crewdson writes, "It was deep in the forests of Becket, Massachusetts that I finally felt darkness lift, experienced a reconnection with my artistic process, and moved into a period of renewal and intense creative productivity."


Gregory Crewdson: The Den (2013) from Cathedral of the Pines © Gregory Crewdson. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery

Crewdson’s new pictures represent a return to both his appetite for staging complex undertakings in service of his art, as well as an affirmation of the simplicity he personally so desires for himself. Maybe it’s that private duality in his own soul that animates the impossibly still, haunting universe of his artistic masterpieces.

Behind the scenes image from Cathedral of the Pines. Courtesy Crewdson Studio.  

To learn more about the artist click here.


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