19 April – 18 May 2002
White Cube Hoxton Square
For his White Cube Hoxton Square exhibition American artist Gregory Crewdson exhibited a new group of twenty photographs from his Twilight series. Begun in 1998 and completed in 2002, Twilight consists of forty photographs created as elaborately staged, large-scale tableaux that explore the relationship between the domestic and the fantastical, between the North American landscape and the topology of the imagination.
Although Crewdson has described himself as an 'an American realist landscape photographer’, he makes filmic images that strongly reference TV programmes such as The Twilight Zone or films such as Close Encounters of the Third Kind that deal with fantasy and the paranormal. In this series of intensely, almost luridly coloured and exuberantly detailed images, Crewdson employs a cinematic, directorial mode of photography, the culmination of weeks of planning and complicated, behind-the-scenes production.
In Crewdson's photographs a collision between the normal and the paranormal exists which serves to transform the familiar suburban landscape into a place of wonder and anxiety. This series of images has become increasingly dark, penetrating the psychological disquiet at the heart of the American family. In one image, we see a teenage girl standing in the street in just her underwear with shoulders hunched and head hanging low, confronted and shamed by her mother's accusatory and disappointed gaze. In another, a pregnant girl dressed in a nightdress stands in a garden that is bathed in the golden light emitted by a swarm of fireflies. Staring at something beyond the picture frame, she crushes a firefly into her rounded stomach.
Several of the images possess narratives that are mythic in proportion and seemingly driven by a sense of quasi-religious task and ritual. In Crewdson's suburban re-working of the well-known Ophelia myth, a young woman floats calmly on the mirror-like surface of her flooded living room, her frozen impassivity reflective of all the characters in this series. In other images, subjects are engrossed in odd, domestic chores such as carving holes in the living room floor or uprooting a huge tree from the rafters of an otherwise standard bedroom. Flora and fauna are amassed in abundance - an enormous mound of flowers is built in the middle of a residential street, a mass of brightly coloured butterflies escape from a garden shed and a strange, upright pole entwined with climbing flowers and plants emerges from beyond a living room window.
Often these photographs present a single isolated figure and the feeling that these strange encounters evoke is of stealing a glimpse of something shameful that should be hidden - something private, enigmatic or transgressive. Threat and danger intermingle with a bucolic sense of suburban bliss. One image depicts an upturned bus, lorded over by a group of teenagers; another is a chilling image of a young girl in pyjamas who stands mesmerized outside her home, beckoned by a man from the empty school bus, the paternal goodwill of the small town becoming something far darker and sinister. Threat is everywhere and danger is a short walk down the garden path. These eerie and evocative photographs recall the films of independent American filmmakers such as David Lynch or Todd Solondz who explore surreal suburban dysfunction and the terror that lurks beneath everyday life.