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Saturday 06.10.06

« Homeland Call For Artists | Main | The Art Of Richard Tuttle at the Des Moines Art Center »

Ovitz Part II at Reed's Cooley Gallery

Gregory Crewdson, Untitled (North by Northwest), Summer, 2004, Digital C-print, 64.25 x 94.25 in.
Edition 5 of 6. Image courtesy of the artist and the Ovitz Family Collection, Los Angeles

Ok, Ill admit I haven't been the biggest fan of Gregory Crewdson and much prefer the works of of his pupil Justine Kurland or the noirish and Lynchian video installations of Sue de Beer to his work. Still, Im not certain they would have had careers if he hadn't blazed a cinematic trail in the late 90's for them. Yes, I found this second installment of Reed's New Trajectories series called "New Trajectories II: Expansions, Recent photography by Gregory Crewdson and Candida Hofer from the Ovitz Family Collection, Los Angeles"... (whew) nearly as compelling as the first installment. The show closes on Sunday June 11th so I recommend you make a point to see it. Also, because its more cinematic than most art Ill refer to film directors to discuss his work.

Gregory Crewdson, Untitled (Backyard Romance), Summer, 2004, Digital C-print, 64.25 x 94.25 in. Edition 5 of 6. Image courtesy of the artist and the Ovitz Family Collection, Los Angeles

Sure, Crewdson plays the same old David Lynch meets Edward Hopper quasi-allegorical shtick we've seen many times (Portlanders last saw him at the Portland Art Museum's UBS collection show) but he's grown a little since then. Now instead of filling a room with water while a stunning actress gazes at us there is a certain quiet, early Spielbergian tension. Yes works like, Untitled (Backyard Romance) are less Jeremy Bruckheimered than in the past but its still there and this body of work reminds me a lot of Robert Zemeckis' What Lies Beneath. A decent but slightly tedious film and in fact Crewdson's work is a bit more rewarding than that film if only because it doesnt answer any of the questions it raises.

The narratives are undefined in these large photographs an yes they are tantalizingly lit in a slightly kitchhy way, you ddon so mch look at these as shop for clues (and there is no checkout register). It's overcooked on purpose to create a certain pregnant stillness of possibilities. It's no wonder that a creature of hollywood like Ovitz (who collects old masters as well) collects Crewdson so heavily, its Hitchcockian but in a glossy slick in a way that make big budget films today so much less than anything Hitchcock would have done. It acknowledges holywood's aristocracy. It's a thing I dont quite buy.

Still, my favorite has to be Untitled (North by Northwest), despite lacking Jimmy Stewart. It's better than the rest because its the sort of scene a filmmaker would cut out of a film. Here, somebody has left the car and supposedly the director has already said cut, the actors are gone... yet the scene goes on. Crewdson's earlier work never did this but Justine Kurland's work often does and I appreciate the gesture of making the director's gaze itself the subject rather than the actors. It's very Hopper and very Ed Ruscha too... I find it increasingly difficult to distinguish between painters, film directors and photographers and Crewdson is a big part of it. Still if he's Zemekis then Kurland is Scorcese.

The other Photographer in the show Candida Hofer isn't really given a chance to shine but she's hot at the moment. Her two photographs are in a corner and boxed off from the Crewdson's but her Bank Nurnberg is a dream of German precision made manifest. The symmetry, the glow, the gleam and the absence of people all project a sense of power. No wonder she's so popular, she's the antidote to all of those melancholy Marcel Dzama clones that glut the art fairs.

Overall, the show left me with a perverse sense of haunted space and I can't help thinking, what if two truly brilliant ghosts like Hitchcock and Judd had possessed both Crewdson and Hofer? Would both have a little more protean spark and seem less like a spent force? Do we live in the age of good is a suitable surrogate for the great? Some would just say, lower your expectations and I'm not buying that either. This is a good show which tells me there is something more out there, we've had Hofer and Crewdson for a while what is next?

This anticipates something so go to the Cooley Gallery at Reed College tomorrow if you havn't already.

Posted by Jeff Jahn on June 10, 2006 at 16:55 | Comments (0)


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