Jeff Wall (b.1946) adopts the nineteenth-century poet Baudelaire's famous description of one of his contemporaries as 'a painter of modern life' to describe his own very different work: huge transparencies mounted on to light boxes that diffuse a brilliant glow of white light evenly through his photographs of contemporary urban scenes and 'constructed' social situations.
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.
The Survey by Thierry de Duve, author of Pictorial Nominalism and The Definitively Unfinished Marcel Duchamp, proposes an alternative history of modernism. Critic and curator Arielle Pelenc talks with the artist on themes ranging from storytelling to cinematography. Boris Groys, author of Contemporary Art from Moscow, focuses on the meaning of light in Wall's work. The Update section by French art critic and historian of photograpy Jean-Francois Chevrier surveys Wall's work from 1995 to the present. The artist has chosen texts by Blasie Pascal and Franz Kafka for the Artist's Choice, and the Artist's Writings celebrate Wall as an art historian and theorist by including key essays and important interviews.
Thierry de Duve has written extensively on modern and contemporary art, with an emphasis on the work of Marcel Duchamp and its legacy. A regular contributor to the journal October, he is editor of The Definitively Unfinished Marcel Duchamp (1991) and the author of Kant after Duchamp (1995). He has taught in the US and France, and lives and works between Belgium and France. Jean-Francois Chevrier is Professor of Contemporary Art History at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Paris. He has curated numerous exhibitions including: 'Another Objectivity' (with James Lingwood) (1989), 'Photokunst' (1989), 'Walker Evans and Dan Graham' (1992-1994) and 'Oyvind Fahlstroem', Barcelona (2001). He was also Curatorial Consultant for Documenta X in 1997. Arielle Pelenc is an art critic and curator who lives and works in France. She has written for Artefactum, Art Press, Parkett and Arts Magazine. Boris Groys was born in East Berlin and studied at Leningrad University. He emigrated to West Germany in 1981 and continues to work in Germany as a freelance author and critic. He has held senior academic posts at universities in Germany, Russia and the United Sates. He has been a contributor to Art in America and his books include The Total Art of Stalinism: Avant-garde, Aesthetic Dictatorship and Beyond (1992).
Interview; French critic and curator Arielle Pelenc discusses with the artist themes ranging from storytelling to cinematography. Survey; Belgian theorist Thierry de Duve discusses Wall's work in relation to an alternative history of Modernism. Focus; Cologne-based theorist Boris Groys focuses on the significance of light in Wall's work. Artist's Choice; The artist has selected extracts from the Pensees (1658) of Blaise Pascal and 'Troubles of a Householder' (1919) by Franz Kafka (1883-1924). Artist's Writings; Jeff Wall is distinguished not only as an artist but also as an art hisatorian and theorist. Selections from his interviews on his own work are published alongside key writings, including new texts written since the first edition was published in 1995. Update; French art critic and historian of photography Jean-Francois Chevrier surveys Wall's work from 1995 to the present. Chronology and Bibliography