Jeff Wall

14 september, 1994 - 7 november, 1994 /
Sabatini Building, Floor 3
Exhibition view. Jeff Wall, 1994
Exhibition view. Jeff Wall, 1994

Jeff Wall (Vancouver, Canada, 1946) is a leading member of the so-called School of Vancouver which is characterised by the practice of photoconceptualism. Linked by his double status as artist and art historian to the tendency of critical modernity, Wall separates himself from anti-artistic and purist positions preferring to dwell on the expressive possibilities of the figurative tradition. Pioneer in the use of cibachrome mounted on boxes of light - which refer to artefacts from the advertising industry - and based on formal and compositional models derived from the history of painting, his photographs deal with the debate about contemporary culture, human behaviour and the power of images. The starting point of his work, as the critic José Lebrero Stals notes, "is the consciousness of the Hegelesque ’non-truth of apparent knowledge’ that can manifest itself as discomfort and surprise at the ordinary"; also emphasising the fact that there is no distance between fiction and reality. Ilva Rouse, curator of the exhibition, suggests that this tension "comes from the transformation of the seemingly every-day through the dramatisation of people who move on a constructed stage, real and imaginary at the same time."

Wall acts as a painter of history: he chooses, designs and meticulously recreates the scenes, as seen in A sudden gust of wind (1993). He asks his actors for certain attitudes and gestures, many of them taken from paintings and that correspond to behavioural patterns from which the artist sets up a gestural syntax. His photographs are the staging for a dramatic imagined event, as exemplified by Explosion (1989) and Dead Troops Talk (A vision after an ambush of a Red Army patrol, near Moqor,  Afghanistanwinter 1986) (1991-1992). For the construction of his images he uses theatrical, artifice and verisimilitude notions, which on the other side, time stops rather than continues, bringing it closer to a cinematic ending.

A baroque artist because of this formal and conceptual use of images, on numerous occasions Wall resorts to allegory as a rhetorical-representative recourse for the creation of these fictions and to deliver his message. Thus, in the words of José Lebrero, The giant (1992) it is an allegorical recreation of the grandeur and longevity of wisdom. The nine works that make up this exhibition, integrated into the "Projects" programme, allow for an examination of Wall’s passing from photographic staging to the adoption of information technology as a new resource for graphics media. So, the journey goes from an instantaneous character in his older works such as Mimic (1982), to the digital collage of his last photographs, as in the case of The giant, made up of over forty different images painstakingly assembled by computer.

Exhibition´s details

Organized by: 
Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía in collaboration with the Government of Canada
Ylva Rouse
Jeff Wall