Press Release

Jeff Wall: Photographs 1978–2004

Jeff Wall: Photographs 1978–2004: Press related to past Tate exhibition.

Tate Modern  Level 4 East
21 October 2005 – 8 January 2006

A major exhibition of photographs by Jeff Wall (born 1946) will be presented at Tate Modern in October 2005. It will provide an overview of his entire career, bringing together more than forty key works from the late 1970s to the present day, many of which are icons of contemporary photography, such as The Storyteller 1986, and After “ Invisible Man” by Ralph Ellison, the Prologue 1999–2000, and will include a group of new works made specially for the show. This will be the most comprehensive survey of the work of this Canadian artist to date.

Jeff Wall has played a key role in establishing photography as a contemporary art form. His highly innovative approach, best known through colour transparencies of carefully constructed compositions, mise-en-scènes, mounted in wall-hung lightboxes in a large-scale format, 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.

The scenes in Wall’s work look, at first glance, like snapshots, often taken from a distant perspective. They are, however, meticulously composed incorporating figures within a variety of staged settings. He frequently draws upon art historical sources or cinematic references. For example Picture for Women 1979 makes direct reference to the woman gazing impassively out from the picture space in Edouard Manet’s Un Bar aux Folies-Bergère 1881–2. In Wall’s A Sudden Gust of Wind 1993 the compositional elements of the landscape evoke the dynamism of Hokusai’s print A High Wind in Yeijiri, from the series Thirty-six Views of the Fuji c.1831–3.

This exhibition will highlight the formal dialogues and visual tensions between individual works and groups of works revealing Wall’s constructed picture-making with the photographs he describes as ‘near documentary’. Many of these explore notions of reportage and social observation such as Overpass 2001 in which a group of three people laden with luggage make their way across a highway flyover and Trån Dúc Ván 1988 – a poignant portrait of a man in the shadow of a tree on a briefly illuminated pavement.

The exhibition at Tate Modern has been selected by Sheena Wagstaff, Head of Exhibitions and Displays at Tate, and Vincent Honoré, Assistant Curator, Tate, in collaboration with the artist. It will be accompanied by an illustrated catalogue with a text by Sheena Wagstaff. An extensive film programme, selected by Jeff Wall and Stuart Comer, Education Curator Tate, will complement the exhibition. Other events include a symposium of papers, including contributors such as Michael Newman, Régis Michel, Michael Fried and Briony Fer, and a conference about Staged Photography chaired by David Campany. A catalogue raisonné, edited by Schaulager, will be published by Steidl Verlag, in connection with the exhibition.

Jeff Wall. Photographs 1978 2004 is an exhibition by Schaulager, Basel, in collaboration with Tate Modern. It opens in Basel on 30 April and closes on 25 September.