Gregory Crewdson and Edward Hopper

As a segue from my post on Psycho where I mentioned Edward Hopper, who is, to me, one of the best American Realist artists to date, I’d like to talk about Gregory Crewdson, a photographer who is strongly influenced by Hopper, as many others were.

I first encountered Crewdson’s photographs at an exhibition in the Public Art Gallery in Dunedin, which is a very fine establishment (with free entry! and choral performances too! ). It was his Brief Encounters exhibition. You can clearly see Hopper’s influence in the scenes staged in Crewdson’s works. Again, small town America is the subject, with surreal shots of American suburbs, the pavements lit by lonely streetlights, creepy family dinners, the silence that looms over it all. And these photographs, like Hopper, make you wonder, they incite imaginations of the stories behind these unnamed characters. The technique that Crewdson uses makes the photographs seem like paintings, but not quite, which adds to the surrealism of the scenes. There is a disquieting element to his works, again, much like Hopper, detailing the dark side of the “American Dream” and the imperfections of idyllic suburban life. Silent despair, anxiety, insecurity, isolation are undercurrents running through both Hopper’s and Crewdson’s works. We can only thank them for peeling away the facade and showing us the dark heart beneath normalcy. The following are absolutely masterful, sweeping, dramatically lighted, painstakingly crafted works from some of Crewdson’s sets. It’s no wonder he’s attracted big names to play his characters, such as Tilda Swinton, Julianne Moore and Gwyneth Paltrow to name a few.

Why is this girl barefooted, what is she holding, and is she has she just exited the cab behind her, or is she running away. From what? If she is returning, what is she returning to?

Is this a happy scene? A mother observes her newborn. But what runs through her mind?

Man. Close encounters of the third kind?

If you are interested in learning more, this blog does a better commentary that I could ever aspire to. And here is the trailer for Crewdson’s Brief Encounters documentary, providing fascinating insight into his work.

Gregory Crewdson: Brief Encounters Trailer from Benjamin Shapiro on Vimeo.

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