Tate Modern Level 4 East
21 October 2005 – 8 January 2006
A major exhibition of work by the world-renowned photographer, Jeff Wall (born 1946), opens on 21 October at Tate Modern. The exhibition provides an overview of his entire career, bringing together fifty key works from the late 1970s to the present day, many of which are icons of contemporary photography, such as The Storyteller (1986), After “Invisible Man” by Ralph Ellison, the Prologue (1999-2000), and Morning Cleaning (1999). It also includes a major new work entitled A View from an apartment (2004-5). This is the most comprehensive survey of the work of this Canadian artist in this country to date.
Jeff Wall has played a key role in establishing photography as a contemporary art form. His highly innovative approach, best known through large-scale colour transparencies of constructed compositions mounted in lightboxes represented a radical new development in twentieth century photography. He first started taking photographs in 1967 and in 1978 created his first lightbox. For the last ten years, he has also been making large black and white photographs, of which there is a selection in the exhibition.
He describes his photographs as being either ‘cinematographic’ or ‘documentary’. The former, such as Restoration ( 1993), are made in collaboration with performers and involve techniques normally associated with film production. The latter, such as Diagonal Composition (1993), are taken without such artifice. While some of the cinematographic pictures are purely imaginary, many are reconstructions of events the artist has witnessed, but not photographed.
This exhibition highlights the formal dialogues and visual tensions between individual works and groups of works revealing Wall’s constructed picture-making in photographs he describes as ‘near documentary’. Reportage and social observation are explored, for example, in Overpass (2001) in which a group of three people laden with luggage make their way across a highway flyover and Trån Dúc Ván (1988 - 2003), a poignant portrait of a man in the shadow of a tree on a brightly illuminated sidewalk.
The exhibition at Tate Modern has been curated by Sheena Wagstaff, Chief Curator, Tate, in close collaboration with Jeff Wall and Vincent Honoré, Assistant Curator, Tate. It is accompanied by a richly illustrated catalogue with an essay by Sheena Wagstaff. A new book in Tate’s Modern Artists series by Craig Burnett has been published in connection with the exhibition. There is also a selected film programme, Off-Screen: Jeff Wall Film Programme, supported by Canada House Arts Trust.
Jeff Wall: Photographs 1978 -2004 is an exhibition by Schaulager, Basel, in collaboration with Tate Modern.
All of the images in the exhibition can be viewed online at www.tate.org.uk on a new microsite specially developed in conjunction with BT. It includes a ground-breaking interactive guide and audio visual materials. Tate Online is exclusively sponsored by BT.