The end of the month is absolutely the dreariest time to review local art shows, since we usually start the month with the things that excite us most, and then work our way down the list. Usually, at this point, there's not much standing between me and the Ansel Adams show at the World Forestry Center. Thus, I am extremely grateful that the folks at this fine paper have consented to allowing semi-regular reviews of artist's books.
I'm a sucker for picture books--I love the intimacy of the private art experience and the fact that I can get acquainted with an endless stream of art that I will likely never witness in person. The book that I keep coming back to these days is Twilight, with photographs by Gregory Crewdson and an essay by Rick Moody. Crewdson holds a strange position of being one of the most imitated artists today, while being a total imitator himself. Twilight is a series of elaborately staged supernatural photodramas that look like scenes from movies--the lighting, the sets, the rigorous production, make-up, and special effects are even listed in the back of the book like credits. The scenes, usually shot in gauzy pinks and dusky blues, depict a quaint New England neighborhood whose daily activities are an endless stream of scenes from the Twilight Zone, E.T., and Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
In Crewdson's photographs, mysterious lights glow from street drains, people wander the streets dazed in their underwear, staring at the skies, and school busses are overturned on quiet mornings. The physical complexity and amount of labor and planning that goes into these photographs is without parallel. Many of the images show entire acres of land that are filled with characters, fire trucks, mountains of Wonder Bread, dead animals, and swarms of butterflies. Each of the 40 photographs is loaded with eerie, subtle detail, and Crewdson definitely earns his spot as leader of the narrative photography movement. Now that he has pushed that genre to new cinematic heights, though, I wonder why he's still kicking around the art world rather than doing the Hollywood thing. At any rate, I'm thankful, because he's bringing us some of the most haunting scenes ever photographed. CHAS BOWIE