9 July 2019 – 7 September 2019 @White Cube Gallery
Canadian Jeff Wall lands at White Cube Mason’s Yard, where he will sojourn until September 7th. Wall is a photographer that uses the camouflage of a movie director to take movie frames-like pictures, with his contorded and undecipherable works. Unlike any regular photo exhibition, you will find yourself wondering if you actually spotted what these images are all about – do they even have any meaning at all? – which is pretty side-splitting.
We pleasantly indulge in his stories – they are ocherstrated scenes, abstruse and inconsequential. As we accept the opportunity to solve what’s really happening in time and space – if we even try to- we get lost in a multitude of possible realities, interpreting these seducing images as if there was a narrative behind them we kind of absolutely must be aware of.
Jeff Wall always chooses to portray scenes that seem stolen from a picture house, but there is no film and he leaves us the duty to choose the right ending.
The photographer came up with the idea of producing these giant-sized images after he saw an advertisment lit on a bus window, which roused his curiosity. He had recently been to the Prado museum in Madrid and decided to combine his knowledge of painting – which he studied at the London Courtauld Institute – with his evident interest in contemporary media to shape his unique style and vision.
Even the way the pictures are presented to the public – inside light boxes, back lit – strives to lead and fixate the viewer’s focus on the central subjects of the action. It’s the result of a union between past and future, media and languages that overlap creating visual experiments.
Some of them are really classics: a child crouches on the asphalt, the father observes him, while passers-by continue to live their lives detached from the child’s actions, indiffrently. The effect is of making the viewer an intimate intruder, witnessing an action in front of his eyes he can’t avoid in this giant picture.
Weightllifter (2015) is simply a black and white photo of a boy lifting a barbell. What’s Wall alluding to? Is there an implication behind the boy’s activity, or is the aim only entertaining for the spectator, a brain teaser for the apparent lack of explanation?
It is this blend between triviality and realism at its limit that makes Wall’s work so charming. Everyday life’s instants hit profound meanings: they are ordinary scenes taken from the mundane corners of the urban environment that turn into elaborated images as complex as a 19th century painting.
Unfortunately, they are not films and we will never know how they end.