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 Jeff Wall  (1946 - )

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Lived/Active: British Columbia / Canada      Known for: mod interior, installation, large-scale urban life photos

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Ad Code: 1
Jeff Wall
from Auction House Records.
Dead Troops Talk (A vision after an ambush of a Red Army patrol, near Moqor, Afghanistan, winter 1986)
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Canadian artist Jeff Wall was born in Vancouver in 1946. He received his B.A. degree from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver in 1968 and his M.A. degree from the same institution in 1970. From 1970-1973, Wall studied art history at the Courtauld Institute in London. He was an Associate Professor at the Center for the Arts, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver,1976-1987. He received the Hasselblad Award in 2002.

Apparently uneasy about the intent, styles and images of contemporary art, its lack of relationship to the reality of the world we live in, Wall has asked how an artist can create as intense impression of life today, as Goya or Manet did in theirs. What would make today's art significant for our modern society? Wall's attempt to provide his own answer to this dilemma is reflected in his use of photographic transparencies displayed in fluorescent light boxes, of life in Vancouver and around the world, often with invented scenarios.

Wall declares that "It is not photography, cinema, painting, or propaganda -- though it has strong associations with them all"as indeed it does, looking very much to be photography.

Jeff Wall has been working for over twenty-five years on his over-sized light boxes of staged scenes. These backlit photographic transparencies are set in cases generally associated with advertising display; but instead of advertisements, Wall fills them with moments of everyday life that usually go unacknowledged. One work is set in the Mies van der Rohe pavilion in Barcelona, Spain, an archetypal model of twentieth-century domestic architecture. But instead of glorifying the building, Wall highlights the necessary yet generally ignored support staff that sustains this and other such monuments. He records in his photo the cleaning of the pavilion, which has been interpreted as symbolic of the cleaning of an aging Modernism, the artistic tradition represented by this building, whose roots date from the earlier part of this century.

Wall often creates his works using actors and actresses on location, as in a movie production, and uses a computer to construct elaborate scenes. Just as painters of past ages composed and depicted historic scenes, landscapes and fashions, Wall portrays our present age by applying his knowledge of art history and photography.

First shown at Documenta 11 in Kassel, Germany, 2002, Jeff Walls' "After '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 light bulbs. Energy and light, stolen from the electric company, illuminate not only the character's basement dwelling but also the truth of his existence. He tells us: "Light confirms my reality, gives birth to my form Without light I am not only invisible but formless as well; and to be unaware of one's form is to live a deathThe truth is the light and light is the truth."

This large work is accompanied by a selection of smaller pictures without figures. These pictures, which are straight photographs, complement the "cinematography" of the larger piece and give a sense of the different aspects of Wall's work. Chantal Pontbriand has written that Wall "allows us to discover who we are in light of who we are no longer. In these psychological and geographical spaces, so emblematic of contemporary life, moments of infinite solitude are felt, a solitude which redefines the meaning of community."

Galeria Helga de Alvear Madrid, Spain

La Forma del Mondo/La Fine del Mondo, Padiglionoe d'Arte Contemporanea di Milano Milan, Italy

Mixing Memory and Desire/Wunsch und Erinnerung, Neues Kunstmusem Luzern Lucerne

Encounters: New Art from Old, The National Gallery London

La Beauté, Mission for the year 2000 Avignon, France

Icon + Grid + Void: Art of the Americas from The Chase Manhattan Collection, The Americas Society New York

Around 1984: A Look at Art in the Eighties, P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center Long Island City, NY

Home, Art Gallery of Western Australia Perth.

Foul Play, Thread Waxing Space New York

The Time of Our Lives, New Museum of Contemporary Art New York

Gesammelte Werke 1: Zeitgenössiche Kunst seit 1968, Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg

Galerie Johnen & Schöttle Cologne, Germany

Odradek, Fundació Mies van der Rohe Barcelona, Spain

Jeff Wall/ Pepe Espaliu: Tiempo suspendido/ Suspended Time, EACC Castello, Spain

Jeff Wall: Oeuvres 1990 - 1998, Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal, Canada

Here and Now II: Jeff Wall, Henry Moore Institute Leeds

Jeff Wall: Photographs of Modern Life, Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Basel

Marian Goodman Gallery New York

Galerie Johnen & Schöttle Munich, Germany

The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden Washington D.C.
Art Tower Mito Mito, Japan

The Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles, CA

Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles, CA


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