The world of Jeff Wall

‘Near documentaries devoid of photographic truth’
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Jeff Wall, Milk (1984)

1 / 12 Jeff Wall, Milk (1984)

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Jeff Wall, Outburst (1989)

3 / 12 Jeff Wall, Outburst (1989)

Jeff Wall, A Sudden Gust of Wind (after Hokusai) (1993)

4 / 12 Jeff Wall, A Sudden Gust of Wind (after Hokusai) (1993)

Jeff Wall, Jell-O (1995)

5 / 12 Jeff Wall, Jell-O (1995)

Jeff Wall, Citizen (1996)

6 / 12 Jeff Wall, Citizen (1996)

Jeff Wall, Volunteer (1996)

7 / 12 Jeff Wall, Volunteer (1996)

Jeff Wall, The Flooded Grave (1998-2000)

8 / 12 Jeff Wall, The Flooded Grave (1998-2000)

Jeff Wall, View from an Apartment (2004-2005)

9 / 12 Jeff Wall, View from an Apartment (2004-2005)

Jeff Wall, In Front of a Night Club (2006)

10 / 12 Jeff Wall, In Front of a Night Club (2006)

Jeff Wall, Dressing Poultry (2007)

11 / 12 Jeff Wall, Dressing Poultry (2007)

Jeff Wall, Fortified Door (2007)

12 / 12 Jeff Wall, Fortified Door (2007)


Over the last three decades Jeff Wall has redefined the photographic image in art. His stunning large-scale photographs exude the dramatic power of history painting with utterly contemporary subject matter (everyday scenes from modern life) and materials (colour transparencies in light boxes). Each of his photographic tableaux is meticulously constructed — carefully staged, precisely lit and, since the late 1980s, digitally adjusted — in a process that the artist often compares to cinematography.

Wall has sometimes referred to his photographs as ‘near documentaries’ because they frequently come from scenes he has witnessed in passing and recomposed later. But he also disavows any claims to photographic truth, constructing many of his pictures around works of art and literature, such as the writings of Franz Kafka, Ralph Ellison and Yukio Mishima and the paintings of Hokusai, Delacroix and Caravaggio.

Jeff Wall. Transit, an exhibition charting Wall’s work from the 1980s to today, will be on show at the Staatlich Kunstsammlungen, Dresden, until 18 September 2010.


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