Magazine article Artforum International

Jeff Wall. (Reviews: New York)

Magazine article Artforum International

Jeff Wall. (Reviews: New York)

Article excerpt

MARIAN GOODMAN GALLERY.

There have been times (and particular pictures) in the past when it seemed that Jeff Wall was determined to take the technical image from classicism to mannerism in one digital swoop. But in his recent works, the style (or stylelessness) of the pictures definitely acts as a vehicle for meaning.

Even though the six images displayed in the front gallery (three large black-and-white photographs and three color light boxes) were not made as a series, the correspondences among them lead inexorably to linked narratives. Four images depict social scenes in the "near-documentary" mode, wherein the apparently instantaneous is laboriously limned. In Forest, 2001, a woman strides away from a rough campsite in a wooded ravine. In Dawn, 2001, a graffiti-covered stone, power pole, and Dumpster occupy a dead-end commercial zone, a waste place protected by a chain-link fence topped with barbed wire. We see the backs of four hurrying travelers in Overpass, 2001, schlepping their bags over a bridge as a storm gathers in the distance. And in Night, 2001, a woman sits against a concrete abutment, her meager possessions strewn along the edge of a dark pool.

All four images depict events and conditions that occur daily around the edges of Capital: peripheral transitions highlighting the ultimate precariousness of possessions. Two images show women without shelter, another shows people in harried transit, and the tagged stone and Dumpster mark the contested boundary between private ownership and public expression. Two other pictures in this gallery (Logs, 2002, and Cuttings, 2001) show nature (trees) transformed into product (building material and fuel) and act as transitional still lifes among the larger narrative pictures; they also remind us of the utter artificiality of these documentary-style images. …

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