Tilton Gallery, New York, NY
David Lynch is an American filmmaker, musician, and visual artist. Lynch is best known as the lauded director of an idiosyncratic cinematic oeuvre that combines neo-noir, surrealism, American kitsch, mystery, horror, and, in his later work, non-linear “dream logic” narrative structures. He’s been nominated for multiple Academy Awards in the categories of Best Director and Best Screenplay. Lynch is also a two-time recipient of France’s César Award for Best Foreign Film, as well as the Cannes Film Festival’s Palme d’Or, the festival’s highest prize. In addition to his cinematic work, Lynch has been recognized for his work in visual art, music, and design. He lives and works in Los Angeles.
Originally from Missoula, Montana, Lynch studied painting at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Arts, where he was first introduced to filmmaking. Inspired by his school experience with the medium, Lynch relocated to LA and produced his first motion picture, Eraserhead (1977), which became a major cult classic for its iconoclastic surrealist-horror tenor. Following that film’s success, Lynch was invited by executive producer Mel Brooks to direct The Elephant Man (1980), for which he contributed to the sound design. The success of these two films launched Lynch towards a mainstream career, which was meant to find its nucleus in Dune (1984), a sci-fi epic based on the 1965 Frank Herbert novel; Lynch was hired to direct the film by executive producer Dino De Laurentiis. Dune, however, was both a critical and a commercial failure, with Roger Ebert giving the film 1 out of 4 stars and naming it the worst movie of 1984.
Following the failure of this early dip into the cinematic mainstream, Lynch turned to a “more personal” approach to filmmaking, writing and directing Blue Velvet in 1986. The neo-noir mystery thriller would come to be regarded as one of the director’s best films. Between 1990 and 1991, Lynch worked with Mark Frost on the widely popular television murder series Twin Peaks, which later had a revival in popularity during the twenty-tens. His following films—Wild at Heart (1990), The Straight Story (1999), Lost Highway (1997), Mulholland Drive (2001) and Inland Empire (2006) leaned progressively further toward surrealist, non-linear narratives and were equally critically acclaimed; writer Pauline Kael has called Lynch “the first popular Surrealist.”
Aside from his cinematic work, Lynch never totally abandoned painting. His painting style has an aesthetic resemblance to that of his films; his works are often dark, completed in a faux-naive style, and use fractured pieces of language. The influence of Irish artist Francis Bacon is clear in Lynch’s own paintings. In 2007, his visual work was shown in a major retrospective at Paris’s Fondation Cartier.
Lynch’s hypnagogic aesthetic is influenced partially by transcendental meditation, which he has practiced twice daily since 1973. In 2005, he founded the David Lynch Foundation for Consciouness-Based Education and World Peace to fund the teaching of the method in schools and to “at-risk” populations.