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Jeff Wall (Contemporary Artists)by Thierry Duve
Synopses & Reviews
The work of Jeff Wall has established photography at the forefront of contemporary art. In this revised edition, new writings by the artist add to the selection of his texts and interviews. An essay by French historian of art and photography surveys developments in the artists work since 1995.
The work of Canadian artist Jeff Wall has established photography at the forefront of contemporary art. He deploys state-of-the-art film and computer technology while invoking the composition, scale and subject matter of painters such as Velazquez, Goya and Manet. His giant transparencies are mounted on light boxes, combining the seductive glow of the cinema screen with the physical presence of minimalist sculpture. Wall's carefully composed mise-en-scenes depict everyday social relations; they explore the heart of darkness that beats behind the glowing, media-saturated facade of contemporary culture.
Jeff Wall is not only one of the most significant mid generation artists working today, he is also a distinguished art critic and theorist of contemporary art and photography. In this revised and expanded second edition new writings by the artist add to the already extensive selection of his texts and interviews. An update essay by the French historian of art and photography, Jean-Francois Chevrier, surveys developments in the artist's work since 1995, with over 50 new images.
Jeff Wall has been the subject of numerous museum retrospectives including the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; the Musee du Jeu de Paume, Paris; the Museum of Modern Art, Helsinki; and the Whitechapel Art Gallery, London, during 1995 — 96.
Jeff Wall adopts the nineteenth-century poet Baudelaire's famous description of one of his painter contemporaries as 'a painter of modern life' to describe his own very different work: huge transparencies mounted onto light boxes which diffuse a brilliant glow of white light evenly through his photographs of contemporary urban scenes and 'constructed' social situations.Jeff Wall is foremost among the pioneering artists who since the late 1960s have brought photography to the forefront of contemporary art. His constructed images employ the latest sophisticated technology in the creation of compelling tableaux which are evocative of subjects ranging from Hollywood cinema to nineteenth-century history painting. When exhibited in their glowing light boxes they evoke both the seduction of the cinema screen and the physical presence of minimalist sculptures such as Dan Flavin's fluorescent light installations or Donald Judd's metal and Perspex wall reliefs.
All of these elements — traditional figurative painting, cinema, Minimalism, Conceptual art, documentary photography — are consciously evoked and explored in Wall's work. Associated closely since the late 1960s with Conceptual artists such as Dan Graham, with whom he collaborated on The Children's Pavilion (1988 — 93), Wall has engaged at a sophisticated level with theories of representation and its social dimensions both as an artist and as a theoretical writer on contemporary art and culture. Wall's own writings and the Survey essay by one of Europe's most distinguished contemporary art critics, Thierry de Duve, are complemented in this revised, expanded edition by an update essay from the French art critic and historian of photography Jean-Francois Chevrier, who examines Wall's work from 1995 to the present.
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