In the late 1970s, Canadian artist Jeff Wall emerged as one of the most influential figures working with the medium of photography. The body of his work radically questions the meaning of photography and its relationship to both life and art. Touching on the fields of art history, advertising, cinematography and, most recently, computer technology, he has opened new possibilities in the genre of narrative photography.
Wall is best known for his innovative use of the light box in creating large-scale Cibachrome transparencies distinguished by vibrant colors and clarity of detail. Reminiscent of illuminated advertising displays, his works often contain disturbing, unsettling elements. The seemingly familiar world he depicts is a deliberately constructed reality, an elaborately detailed mise-en-scène that addresses contradictions in today’s culture of spectacle.
Pictured here is the Mies van der Rohe pavilion in Barcelona, Spain, an archetypal model of modernist architecture (the building, demolished in 1930, was rebuilt in 1959 to its original 1928-1929 design). Instead of celebrating the building’s iconicity, Wall captures a moment of everyday life that would otherwise go unacknowledged. This documentary yet metaphoric image simultaneously unveils the realistic and the conceptual aspects of the artist’s photographic language.