Thursday, October 22, 2015

Jeff Wall, Smaller Pictures at Foundation Henri Cartier-Bresson, Paris

Jeff Wall - A sapling supported by a post, 2000

Canadian camera artist Jeff Wall is best known for his large-scale back-lit cibachrome photographs and art history writing. Wall has been a key figure in Vancouver's art scene since the early-1970s. Early in his career, he helped define the Vancouver School and he has published essays on the work of his colleagues and fellow Vancouver artists Rodney Graham, Ken Lum and Ian Wallace. His photographic tableaux often take Vancouver's mixture of natural beauty, urban decay and postmodern and industrial featurelessness as their backdrop.

Wall has built his reputation on carefully staged moments, often influenced by scenography from nineteenth-century canonical paintings. His exhibition Smaller Pictures, at Paris's Foundation Henri Cartier-Bresson however, departs from his usual signature panoramas, not only because of the difference in physical scale but with Wall's subject matter and vision. The images in the HCB exhibition were selected by Wall from his personal collection, with each image intended for presentation in a smaller format. Wall explains: Some of these pictures simply refused to be included in larger plans I had for them . . . some were just accidents along the way. Examples of these misfit images range from the stark color blocking of Diagonal Composition, 1993, which frames the sink in his studio, to The Giant, 1992, which features a naked woman on a stairway landing.

Much of the work shown highlights surface details and the banal - windows, cobwebs, textures. Human, figurative elements are seen truncated and in bits and pieces. Ambiguity and mystery pervades the work and renders the issue of scale to be unimportant.

The exhibition, Jeff Wall, Smaller Pictures continues at Foundation Henri Cartier-Bresson until December 20.

Jeff Wall - Diagonal Composition, 1993

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