Jeff Wall

(1946) Canadian


Jeff Wall was born in Vancouver, and received an MA in fine art from the University of British Columbia in 1970. He then pursued doctoral research in art history at the Courtauld Institute in London before returning to Canada. He experimented with Pop Art, Minimalism, and Conceptual Art early in his artistic career, before developing his signature style, the use of the light box as an artistic medium, in 1977. With the success of The Destroyed Room (1978), his first work for the light box, it became his medium of choice, and it has remained so for most of his career. His subject matter has changed frequently, however: his early work addressed sociopolitical issues and feminist critical theory while later concerns have included investigations of portraiture as an artistic genre and, more recently, narratives. He has varied his medium to include digitally manipulated images and since 1995 has exhibited black and white and color photographs on paper in addition to light boxes. Wall has participated in many exhibitions, including Documenta VII in Kassel in 1982 and the 1995 Whitney Biennial, and has had solo exhibitions at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, and elsewhere.
Jeff Wall's photography constitutes an unusual hybrid of styles and techniques. His work is technically innovative in its employment of devices associated with cinematography, such as day-for-night shooting, which, combined with the strong narrative thrust of his photographs, brings his work very close to film. Wall's typically postmodern content incorporates allusions to art history and the mass media into seemingly realistic scenes to confuse any potentially documentary implications. The result is a heterogeneous body of work that admits its artificiality without sacrificing social significance and visual meaning.
Lisa Hostetler

Handy et al. Reflections in a Glass Eye: Works from the International Center of Photography Collection, New York: Bulfinch Press in association with the International Center of Photography, 1999, pp. 230-31.
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