Geneva Anderson digs into art

Photographer Renata Breth will introduce “Brief encounters”— the new film about Gregory Crewdson, photographer of the perfect moment—at Sonoma Film Institute Friday, January 18, 2013

Photographer Gregory Crewdson is the subject of Benjamin Shapiro’s documentary “Brief Encounters,” which explores Crewdson’s meticulous process of creating and then photographing a “perfect moment” in the world.

Photographer Gregory Crewdson is the subject of Benjamin Shapiro’s documentary “Brief Encounters,” which explores Crewdson’s meticulous process of creating and then photographing a “perfect moment” in the world. The film screens this week at Sonoma Film Institute.

Photographer Gregory Crewdson constructs large-scale photographs of America’s Suburbia in which beauty and a strong sense of the bizarre converge  to create the perfect teaser for some unknown story.  Inspired by film, Baroque Tenebrist painters (Caravaggio), and his own imagination, Crewdson often depicts an almost frozen protagonist surrounded by beautiful chaos.  Not only is his work fascinating, with a distinct psychological factor, but so is his process, which is the subject of Ben Shapiro’s new film, Brief Encounters (2012, USA, 79 minutes).   The documentary will screen Friday (January 18, 2013) at 7 p.m. and Sunday (January 20, 2013) at 4 p.m. at Sonoma Film Institute on the Sonoma State University campus.  On Friday night only, the film will be introduced by internationally recognized photographer Renata Breth, chair of the photography faculty at Santa Rosa Junior College and a long-time fan of Crewdson.  Renata is sure to lead the discussion in an interesting direction as she explores Crewdson’s meticulous artistic processes and their mesmerizing impact as well as Shapiro’s filmmaking merits.   

 Ten years in the making, Brief Encounters captures Park Slope native Gregory Crewdson in the process of composing images for his series and book Beneath the Roses, which profiles a slice of the American underclass.  I have not yet seen the film, nor have I met Crewdson, but his meticulously staged work is said to be influenced by a childhood obsession with his father’s psychoanalytic practice, a fascination with Diane Arbus, and David Lynch’s “Blue Velvet.”   Crewdson is represented by Gagosian Gallery in New York, teaches photography as an adjunct at Yale and is widely collected.   

Crewdson’s hauntingly beautiful photographs add a new dimension to the ‘Created Reality,’ ‘Staged Photographs,’ or whatever term we’d like to use.  He approaches his photographs more like a surreal painter and then creates realities as photographs that are seemingly ‘trapped’ in a documentary setting.  His has penultimate control of every detail and produces exquisite results, especially with lighting.  Crewdson has hired lighting designers, who used to work in the motion picture industry. The suburban or small town locations are distinctly American; they hint of secrets, engage us to look for clues in a drama about to happen, make us speculate about what did possibly happen.  Renata Breth

Details:  “Brief Encounters” screens Friday (January 18, 2013) at 7 p.m. and Sunday (January 20, 2013) at 4 p.m., at Sonoma Film Institute at Warren Auditorium on the Sonoma State University campus.  Renata Breth introduces the film on Friday only.  Directions to Warren Auditorium: At the Main Entrance to the University, turn left off of E. Cotati Avenue onto Sequoia Drive. Take the first right at the Information Booth onto Redwood Drive. Turn left into parking lot E.  Warren Auditorium is inside Ives Hall, the building on the North side of the parking lot.  New Fees SSU Parking: Parking in all general parking lots, including Lot E, which is closest to Warren Auditorium is now $5, 24 hours, all 7 days of the week.  Film Admission: $5-7, free to SSU students with I.D. Information:  or phone: 707.664.2606

January 16, 2013 Posted by | Art, Film | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Closing Sunday: “REAL TO REAL: Photographs from the Traina Collection,” at the de Young Museum

“Melissa” (2005, Chromogenic print, 50”h x 40”w) by American photographer Alec Soth is on display at the de Young Museum through September 16, 2012, as part of “Real to Real: Photographs from the Traina Collection.” The image was taken at the Flamingo Inn at Niagra Falls, the former honeymoon capital of the world, just after the woman, Melissa, was married. Image courtesy: Traina Collection.

An engaging and controversial show, Real to Real: Photographs from the Traina Collection is closing this Sunday, August 16, 2012, at San Francisco’s de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park.  Drawn from the impressive holdings of San Francisco native Trevor Traina, a member of the FAMSF Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco Board and the son of its President, Diane B. (Dede) Wilsey, the exhibition brings together rare black-and-white vintage prints of classic images by Robert Frank, Lee Friedlander, Diane Arbus and Garry Winogrand with works in color by artists ranging from Stephen Shore and William Eggleston to Cindy Sherman, Alec Soth and Andreas Gursky.

How the mix of 110 images, produced by some of the pre-eminent artists working in photography from the 1950s has to the present, qualified as a major exhibition at the museum has been a source of controversy.  Some Bay Area art critics have suggested that it was improper protocol to give museum space to someone so closely connected with the internal politics of the museum.

When Fine Arts Museum director John Buchanan passed in December 2011, Mrs. Wilsey stepped up to run things until a suitable new director could be found and six months later her son has a prominent show in the museum.  It might look cozy but, so far, no one has come up with any rules that were violated.  The show, which examines different historical understandings of Realism and its changing definitions over time, was curated jointly by Art Historian Kevin Moore, who served as an advisor to Traina on the collection, and Founding Curator of Photography and Chief Administrative Curator at the Fine Arts Museums Julian Cox.

Photography has not been considered “fine art” until fairly recently by the FAMSF according to Mrs. Wilsey, who spoke at the exhibition’s press conference in June about the history of photography and the museum’s long lack of wall space devoted to the medium.  Now, things have changed and the museum is welcoming photography, with Julian Cox proudly at the helm.  Cox states, “It was Alfred Stieglitz who, a century ago, campaigned in support of photography’s expressive possibilities independent from other visual arts, because he believed the medium to be endowed with what he described as “a reality so subtle that it becomes more real than reality.”

Most of us are moved by photography because it provides us with a myriad of possibilities to understand our lives through the power of images.  The Traina collection includes some well-known icons as well as powerful works by emerging and experimental young photographers.  Notes Cox, “The Traina collection includes many images that sit firmly within the tradition of photography as a craft and a vocation, alongside those made by artists who consider photography as just one medium among others from which they can select to communicate an idea. This use of photography within conceptual art has been at the center of Traina’s most recent activity as a collector, and it brings the exhibition fully into the contemporary moment with new works by artists such as Roe Etheridge, Christopher Williams and Ryan McGinley.

Traina said, “There are often photography shows of one artist or one period. What makes this show special is that it traces an idea — the evolution of the documentary tradition and the maturation of the photographic medium — across almost seven decades. The evolution of color photography and the huge glossy prints that sit next to their pristine black and white antecedents are really fun to see.”

Catalogue: An accompanying 136-page catalogue, Real to Real: Photographs from the Traina Collection (2012, $45) features over 85 plates and includes a foreword and introduction by Curator Julian Cox and an essay by art historian Kevin Moore.

Details:  Real to Real: Photographs from the Traina Collection closes Sunday, September 16, 2012. The de Young Museum is located in Golden Gate Park, 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive, San Francisco.  The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday 9:30 a.m. to 5:15 p.m.; Fridays (through November 23, 2012) until 8:45 p.m. and is closed Mondays.  For information about museum hours and ticket prices, call (415) 750-3600 or visit .

September 15, 2012 Posted by | Art, de Young Museum | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment