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Jeff Wall Photo

Jeff Wall

Canadian Photographer

Movement: Photo Conceptualism

Born: September 29, 1946 - Vancouver, Canada

Jeff Wall Timeline

Quotes

"I call it cinematography - I've just detached it from filmmaking,"
Jeff Wall
"The relationship of photography to cinema and painting has always been the important thing for me."
Jeff Wall
"Not photographing gives me imaginative freedom that is crucial to the making of art. That, in fact, is what art is about - the freedom to do what we want."
Jeff Wall
"I make [my pictures] for my next attempt to say something about my relation to the canon of art,"
Jeff Wall
"I sort of slithered into photography, in a kind of tormented, backwards way,"
Jeff Wall
"Like painting, my work is very much about composition. That is where the feeling flows - more so than in the expressions on faces or the possible social meanings. But I am not trying to imitate painting. In fact, my pictures are as close to Robert Frank or Paul Strand as they are to painting or cinema. But people seem to choose not to see that."
Jeff Wall
"I feel like the actual artistic part of photography is concluded when a negative is made into a positive - a print,"
Jeff Wall
"I find my observations interesting. Maybe that's why I'm a photographer. Maybe an observation is an experience that means more to you than other experiences."
Jeff Wall
"I wasn't studying art history; I was studying myself."
Jeff Wall

"Just as in the cinema you wouldn't think that a realistic film is any less filmic than a musical fantasy. They're both part of the cinema. And I see that this is the same in my work, they are different genres that I am interested in and I move between them."

Synopsis

Known as both an artist and art historian, Jeff Wall is a Canadian photographer and writer whose work simultaneously showcases and challenges some of the most dominant assumptions about art and art-making. Since in the late 1970s, Wall has created large-scale photographs that recall the imagery, subject matter, construction, and display methods of both pop culture advertising and cinema and the celebrated masterpieces of art history. His early photography shares qualities and themes with Conceptual art, as well as aspects of Appropriation art of the 1970s and 1980s, by investigating the assumed, required elements of fine art and borrowing narrative and visual details from outside the established art world genres. In his wall-sized, brightly lit photographs, Wall combines opposing concepts in the same image, confronting viewers with questions of fabrication and authenticity, spontaneity and artistic process. Much of his subject matter comes from moments that Wall has witnessed, read, or heard in his own life. But, rather than exactly replicating those moments, Wall recreates these scenes to his own liking, changing visual and physical elements as he pleases and depicting the scenes as frozen moments in the middle of an event. Through his photography, Wall attempts to allow the meticulous craft of fine art to enter the imagery of the everyday, all while indulging his own visual and narrative desires and inviting viewers to indulge in their own as well.

Key Ideas

Wall carefully stages the scenes he photographs, intricately designing every detail to achieve his desired visual effects. Ironically, the final images often appear to be mid-action, spontaneous, and candid moments. Although a photograph traditionally captures a single moment in time, Wall's photographs also document the culmination of a time-consuming and laborious process to produce an artistic vision that intentionally obscures the creative process itself.
In Wall's earliest photographs of the late 1970s and 1980s, clear references are made to some of the most famous paintings in the history of art since the Renaissance. Wall admits that in nodding toward the titans of early modern painting, such as Delacroix and Manet, he was "trying to continue an idea of historically and theoretically informed production." At the time, many contemporary artists were rejecting the presumed grandeur of fine art painting in materials, style, and subject matter. Quite uniquely, Wall uses modern-day items and scenes to compose his photographs, but designs these compositional elements in ways that clearly hint at earlier landmarks, showing reverence to both art history and to contemporary artistic interests in the same space.
Rather than emphasizing the intimacy that photographs can carry through their small sizes and abilities to capture fond, personal memories, Wall challenges this intimacy by making his photographs large in size and displaying them in light boxes. The surprising scale of the photographs, along with the intense brightness of the images, commands the viewer's attention in the way that big, illuminated advertising signs do in modern life, from bus stops to billboards. The visual intensity of these photographs can elicit a diverse range of responses from their audiences, as viewers are thrust into the private lives and spaces of the people in the photographs or into environments that range from war-torn to idyllic.

Biography

Jeff Wall Photo

Childhood

Jeff Wall was on born September 29, 1946, in Vancouver, Canada. He describes his parents as not "hugely interested in the art thing," but they did have a monthly subscription to the Abrams Art Book Series of full-color monographs on master painters, such as Cézanne and Rembrandt. These books influenced Wall throughout his childhood, introducing him to the most prominent artists throughout history and showing him how these artists explored the boundaries of various painting styles and artistic movements. Inspired by what he found, Wall began drawing, and, when he was sixteen, his father built a studio for him in a backyard shed, so he could begin to create large paintings.

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Jeff Wall Biography Continues

Influences and Connections

Influences on Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Influenced by Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Jeff Wall
Interactive chart with Jeff Wall's main influences, and the people and ideas that the artist influenced in turn.
View Influences Chart

Artists

Eugène DelacroixEugène Delacroix
Édouard ManetÉdouard Manet
Sol LeWittSol LeWitt

Personal Contacts

Movements

RomanticismRomanticism
Modern PhotographyModern Photography
Conceptual ArtConceptual Art

Influences on Artist
Jeff Wall
Jeff Wall
Years Worked: 1967 - Present
Influenced by Artist

Artists

Andreas GurskyAndreas Gursky
Thomas StruthThomas Struth
Thomas RuffThomas Ruff
Candida Höfer

Personal Contacts

Benjamin BuchlohBenjamin Buchloh
Ian Wallace
Rodney Graham

Movements

Dusseldorf schoolDusseldorf school
Vancouver SchoolVancouver School
Photo ConceptualismPhoto Conceptualism
Tableau Photography

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Cite this page

Content compiled and written by Hope Guzzo

Edited and revised, with Synopsis and Key Ideas added by Meggie Morris

" Artist Overview and Analysis". [Internet]. . TheArtStory.org
Content compiled and written by Hope Guzzo
Edited and revised, with Synopsis and Key Ideas added by Meggie Morris
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