jeff walls

 

effrey “Jeff” WallOCRSA (born September 29, 1946) is a Canadian artist best known for his large-scale back-lit cibachrome photographs and art history writing. Wall has been a key figure in Vancouver’s art scene since the early-1970s. Early in his career, he helped define the Vancouver School and he has published essays on the work of his colleagues and fellow Vancouverites Rodney GrahamKen Lum and Ian Wallace. His photographic tableaux often take Vancouver’s mixture of natural beauty, urban decay and postmodern and industrial featurelessness as their backdrop.

Wall experimented with conceptual art while an undergraduate student at UBC.[2] Wall then made no art until 1977, when he produced his first backlit phototransparencies.[6] Many of these pictures are staged and refer to the history of art and philosophical problems of representation. The photographs’ compositions often allude to historical artists like Diego VelázquezHokusai, and Édouard Manet,[7] or to writers such as Franz KafkaYukio Mishima, and Ralph Ellison.[8]

Presenting his fist gallery exhibition in 1978 as an “installation” rather than as a photography show, Wall placed The Destroyed Room in the storefront window of the Nova Gallery, enclosing it in a plasterboard wall. Mimic[9] (1982) typifies Wall’s cinematographic style. A 198 x 226 cm. colour transparency, it shows a white couple and an Asian man walking towards the camera. The sidewalk, flanked by parked cars and residential and light-industrial buildings, suggests a North American industrial suburb. The woman is wearing red shorts and a white top displaying her midriff; her bearded, unkempt boyfriend wears a denim vest. The Asian man is casual but well-dressed in comparison, in a collared shirt and slacks. As the couple overtake the man, the boyfriend makes an ambiguous but apparently obscene and racist gesture, holding his upraised middle finger close to the corner of his eye, “slanting” his eye in mockery of the Asian man’s eyes. The picture resembles a candid shot that captures the moment and its implicit social tensions, but is actually a recreation of an exchange witnessed by the artist.

First shown at documenta 11After “Invisible Man” by Ralph Ellison, the Preface (1999–2001) represents a well-known scene from Ellison’s classic novel. Wall’s version shows us the cellar room, “warm and full of light,” in which Ellison’s narrator lives, complete with its 1,369 lightbulbs.[10]

Wall’s work advances an argument for the necessity of pictorial art.[8] Some of Wall’s photographs are complicated productions involving cast, sets, crews and digital postproduction. They have been characterized as one-frame cinematic productions. Susan Sontag ended her last book, Regarding the Pain of Others (2003), with a long, laudatory discussion of one of them, Dead Troops Talk (A Vision After an Ambush of a Red Army Patrol near Moqor, Afghanistan, Winter 1986) (1992), calling Wall’s Goya-influenced depiction of a made-up event “exemplary in its thoughtfulness and power.”

While Wall is known for large-scale photographs of contemporary everyday genre scenes populated with figures, in the early 1990s he became interested in still lifes.[11] He distinguishes between unstaged “documentary” pictures, like Still Creek, Vancouver, winter 2003,[12] and “cinematographic” pictures, produced using a combination of actors, sets, and special effects, such as A Sudden Gust of Wind (after Hokusai), 1993. Based on Yejiri Station, Province of Suruga (ca. 1832) a woodprint by Katsushika HokusaiA Sudden Gust of Wind recreates the depicted 19th century Japanese scene in contemporary British Columbia, utilizing actors and took over a year to produce 100 photographs in order “to achieve a seamless montage that gives the illusion of capturing a real moment in time.”[13]

Since the early 1990s, he has used digital technology to create montages of different individual negatives, blending them into what appears as a single unified photograph.[14] His signature works are large transparencies mounted on light boxes; he says he conceived this format when he saw back-lit advertisements at bus stops during a trip between Spain and London. In 1995, Wall began making traditional silver gelatin black and white photographs, and this has become an increasingly significant part of his practice since that time.[14] .]

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~ by mrtbrown on March 18, 2012.

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