Jeff Wall - Timothy Huang

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:: JEFF WALL :: : 

:: JEFF WALL :: Professor WarrenARTD 360: Digital ImagingUniversity of Oregon Winter Term 2009 Timothy Huang ??? Guidelines for Artist Presentations

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Jeff Wall was born on September 1946 in Vancouver, British Columbia and still lives there. He studied art in London and Vancouver and lectured art for many years at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. He has been considered one of the most intriguing cinematographers of his generation since 1967. He was inspired by light box advertisement on the bus ride back to France from Spain during late 1970s. Many of his images are large transparencies placed in backlit boxes. The light box advertisement offers multiple images with 3-D displays that draw lots of attention and can be seen in many hot spots such as train stations, airports, and department stores. PART ONE

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D E S C R I P T I O N Methodologies Media Process of Working Many of his photographs are captured like a movie scene with great detail. The composition is often well thought out and acquired from classical paintings. Jeff Wall uses his method of “cinematographic photography” to make pictures that have a kind of literal presence. He produces photographs that represent life where the scene takes place or location as he would go out and build the entire sets duplicating the scene, including actors and actresses on location, as in a movie production. He carefully works on each of his photographs for long periods of time and uses a computer to construct elaborate scenes in the photographs, such as staging his own reality rather than waiting around for it to happen by chance. Jeff Wall, internationally known for using digital techniques, produced his first humongous, photographic, backlit transparency in 1977. He provides historical references and extremely compelling forms in his photographs that act as documents of social realities in the modern world. In addition, he does not create formal perfection, symmetry, or abstraction in his photographs. He only tells the story. Jeff Wall has been working for over 30 years on his light boxes, which are approximately 10 feet by 16 feet and are presented in the Museum of Modern Art’s exhibition space. It is like looking through a big window into another world.

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C O N C E P T U A L A R T What the artist conceptually is trying to communicate? Jeff Wall is trying to communicate something strange within and without the frame. Each photograph provides as a sort of drama, which can tell a deeply interesting story; they are often called “cinematic” or elaborate and “movie-like.” His work is based on the representation of the expressive gestures of the body, which can function as emblems (Duve 77). A gesture can be seen as racist in Jeff Wall’s photograph, “Mimic,” (1982) in which a white man makes a rude gesture in the direction of a young Chinese man. Also, he creates many moods related to the quality of light. Each picture creates its own mood, both physical and emotional. PART TWO

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PART THREE FORMAL EVALUATION OF THE VISUAL AESTHETICS OF THE WORK Every picture tells many different stories, giving you this feeling that there is a secret meaning inside the picture. I would like to point out my three favorites photographs of Jeff Wall pieces. In 1978, Jeff Wall produced his very first cataloged photograph called “The Destroyed Room,” that used a light box covered with a colored transparency. This indicates a vandalized bedroom and was made for his wife who had left him temporarily for another man. As you can see, the middle of the picture shows the high heels of the woman, and the destruction indicates the man.

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In 1992, the second photograph called, “Dead Troops Talk,” in which Jeff Wall created an elaborate battle scene. What historic event do you think is being portrayed here? It is based on the Soviet Union’s conflict with Afghanistan in the winter of 1986. If you look closely, you will notice the thirteen men are all awake and laughing, crying, and fingering their gruesome wounds. It shows the dialogue of the dead where the soldiers who have just been killed on the battlefield are re-animated. But the point is that Jeff Wall wants to show the situation of the battlefield, which is rather impossible to see in real life. He portrays the soldiers becoming aware of their death immediately after they had been killed on the battlefield.

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Jeff Wall has captured the moment of movement and chaos forever, so we can see the beauty in what he has created. It was on the cranberry farm near Vancouver. A gust of wind sends a pile of papers into the air while a person is trying to hold on to the remaining papers in hand. As you can see, the person standing in the middle seems to be the only person noticing the beauty of the moment, although he is looking at his hat flying into the sky. Jeff took more than a hundred photos for over a five-month period for the final 12-foot long picture. However, he did use computers and actors to make his photograph as close to Hokusai’s artwork as possible. This makes it seem like the photograph captures reality and gives this image a new life as potential reality. A Sudden Gust of Wind (after Hokusai) 1993

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PART FOUR HOW DIGITAL MEDIA IS INCORPORATED AND HOW THAT AFFECTS THE WORK? Jeff Wall using digital photography to capture 180 degrees and construct artificial landscapes, such as collages using multiple, overlapping, panoramic photographs. Panoramic means a wide unobstructed view in all directions. He was fascinated by panorama and used a wide-angle lens to photograph the restoration of the “Bourbaki” panorama in Switzerland. He took several hundred pictures with a panoramic camera after he used the computer and the process of digital montage. His final image of “Restoration” was finished in 1993, the same year he made “A Sudden Gust of Wind.” Jeff Wall believes that the elusive nature of photography, compounded by digital technology, promises surprising work (Baker).

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Thank you for listening.

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