The FRAC Auvergne, in France, is dedicating an exhibition to American photographer Gregory Crewdson that brings together the series Fireflies (1996) and Cathedral of the Pines (2013-2014), both conceived in the town of Becket, Massachusetts, where the artist spent a part of his childhood. It will also present a group of works from the series Beneath the Roses (2003-2008). It is the photographer’s first exhibition in a French institution. It is also accompanied by the publication of the book The Becket Pictures.
Whether they be composed in sets entirely constructed in the studio, or take place in a natural setting meticulously chosen, Gregory Crewdson’s photographs generally call for human and technical filmmaking resources. His work ultimately only includes one series, Fireflies (1996), made with just a single photographer and his camera, without the least bit of set or very elaborate postproduction, something for which his photos usually call. This exhibition brings together images from Fireflies with the artist’s most recent body of work, Cathedral of the Pines (2013-2014). The two series, created with two diametrically opposite means, temporally frames the period of a world where Gregory Crewdson was established as one of the major figures of current photography. Previous and contemporary series of Fireflies formed the groundwork of a vocabulary that further developed with Twilight, Dream House, and Beneath the Roses. However, in 1996, Fireflies was an unexpected step, something so unique in his work that the artist made the decision to set aside the series for ten years before finally making it public.
The series Cathedral of the Pines happened after a creative dry spell of close to three years, and, although they do not abandon the cinematography paradigm, the photographs came before a clear rebalancing of cinematic language in favor of a more solid anchoring in the history of painting and a more intimate tonality. There is a dialogue between the nighttime images of lightning bugs from the series Fireflies and the staging of Cathedral in the Pines to the extent that, separated by more than fifteen years, they were created in the same place– close to the small town of Becket, Massachusetts– all while obeying very different developing procedures. Beyond their strictly artistic aspects, these series each come out of a critical moment in the personal journey of Gregory Crewdson.
This autobiographical dimension is important. It allowed for the appreciation of the introspective weight, which, from the beginning, was the driving force behind Gregory Crewdson’s art, all while reaffirming the essential role of choosing spaces in his photography.
Text by Jean-Charles Vergne
Jean-Charles Vergne has been the director of the FRAC Auvergne since 1996 and is an art critic, editor, and curator.