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IN BRIEF

Nonfiction

February 12, 1995|Kristine McKenna

IMAGES by David Lynch (Hyperion: $40; 192 pp.) The most remarkable thing about David Lynch's sensibility is the extreme dualities it encompasses. The sacred and the profane merge in Lynch's world, where every sunny suburban morning threatens to explode into mayhem, things crippled and deformed resonate with holy purity, and the erotic is simultaneously mystical and degraded. Those threads run through everything he's done--and as can be seen here, he's done a lot. A staggeringly prolific artist, Lynch has created a massive body of work that includes photographs, drawings, paintings, sculpture, conceptual exercises, programs for television and theater, musical compositions and of course, film--a medium he's worked in as an actor, director, producer and writer. Lynch draws on all those fields for this book, which is largely composed of previously unpublished images (such as the above photo of Isabella Rossellini).

It's been said that one measure of an artist is his ability to create a complete and original universe, and on that score Lynch is wildly successful. Regardless of the medium employed, Lynch's work is true to an immediately recognizable style that's at once innocent and savagely dark. A horror of things physical, and of the process of decay that functions as the cruel heart of nature, is evident in much of his work, and it's hard to know whether to laugh, cry or avert your eyes in disgust from the images revolving around those themes. Lynch has a very black sense of humor. He's capable of extraordinary tenderness as well, however, and that aspect of his nature is most evident here in images from his film of 1980, "The Elephant Man," and his photographs of industrial landscapes.

The most surprising inclusions are the images from his sci-fi epic of 1984, "Dune"; though it was savaged by the critics, the film had moments of great beauty, seen in the stills included here. Equally noteworthy are the images from "Twin Peaks." That seminal TV series had worn out its welcome and lost much of its original brilliance by the time it wound to a close in 1991, but these "Twin Peaks" images remind us of why the series created such a stir when it first aired in April of 1990. As for Lynch's other films, it's unlikely that anyone has forgotten his two works of genius, "Eraserhead" and "Blue Velvet"; the pictures here from those films are probably already indelibly imprinted on your mind's eye.

Though Lynch will no doubt go down as one of film's great boy geniuses (he made "Eraserhead" while in his 20s), painting is a different ballgame; they say it's an old man's game, where slow and steady wins the race. Lynch is a highly disciplined artist who's been painting steadily for more than 20 years, and the time he's put in is beginning to show in his work. Loosely figurative, monochromatic works grounded in Abstract Expressionism, Lynch's paintings have grown significantly in the past five years; however, that growth is hard to gauge in these small black-and-white reproductions. His film stills and photographs come off to much better effect; nonetheless, everything in this book is an essential piece in the puzzle of Lynch's wonderfully idiosyncratic mind.

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