Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Freeze Frame

by Drew Martin
I recently saw two artist documentaries back to back, which, at first glance, seem to be miles apart but actually have a strong connection in that the artists featured summarize films in a single frame.

I first watched Gregory Crewdson: Brief Encounters, followed by Drew: The Man Behind the Poster. Crewdson studied photography at Yale where he was taught a formal approach to medium, which was about finding a poetic truth in the world. What he saw in the big New York shows at the time, however, was work by artists such as Cindy Sherman and Laurie Simmons who were using photography for fictions and constructs. Crewdson's photographs have as much setup and production behind them as movie scenes: he often shuts down city streets and uses film-industry-standard lighting rigs. It makes me think about Krzysztof Kieslowski's comment that he would not make films if he could express himself a better way because of the logistical nightmare behind every scene. The difference in Crewdson's work is that while his shots require the same setup as a movie, he only requires one picture to tell his story. 

Crewdson's work is first and foremost about the narrative. I do not like a narrative approach to art and find it limiting for a viewer who can only appreciate that so I love one comment made in this documentary regarding this, which is "writers like visual arts that are narrative." 

While Crewdson's name and his work are confined to certain art circles, and the artist behind the documentary Drew: The Man Behind the Poster may only be known by name, Drew Struzan, to the film industry and Comic Con enthusiasts, Struzan's work is recognizable to everyone around the world. Struzan is the poster artist behind Hollywood's most memorable films including Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Blade Runner, Police Academy, and the list goes on. Big name directors such as Steven Spielberg even speak about instructing their directors of photography to match the mood and quality that Struzan creates. In his work there are hints of the most precise, and albeit sentimental illustrators, such as Norman Rockwell and Alfons Mucha, but the difference is Struzan's ability to layer two hours of a movie experience, and all the personalities of the movie's stars into one image. It is a dying if not dead art, which the film laments, and attributes to the rise of Photoshop-generated artwork.