Saturday, February 28, 2009
In an analysis of Charles Baudelaire, Benjamin Walter notes, “On the basis of its historical existence, beauty is an appeal to join those who admired it at an earlier time” (de Duve 53). With references to several noteworthy creations of the past, Jeff Wall constructs this definition of beauty within his work by diligently integrating his preference for location, his point of view, and knowledge of lighting. He manipulates these elements in order to present an unresolved conflict, stimulating a sense of unrest in its viewer.
These images seem spontaneously chaotic, but once the reserve from first impressions wares off and awareness for existence starts to sink in, it is much easier to dissect the structure of his intricate planning. “The Destroyed Room” certainly fits its title; within the center of the composition, the guts of a mattress protrude its gaping laceration. The red wall in the back shares similar injuries, as insulation and wooden bones are exposed, allowing the skeleton of the room to breathe. “Mimic” displays tension that is more engaging, current and active. Though the mocking gesture is intended to separate the individuals, they become parallel in their motions as their attributes merge together. The space in “A Sunflower” also becomes one to investigate. Behind closed shutters, the organism is nourished, but alone, and its strength is fleeting; this comparison of ideas is echoed with the fruit displayed in the bowl and on the shelf, untouched. The figure in “Milk” is motionless, as the violent splash escaping the bottle becomes an emotional illustration of what he holds inside. These juxtapositions translate into images that are full of thinking and feeling; even objects and spaces exhibit emotion, just as the actors that inhabit his work.
Brougher, Kerry. Jeff Wall. Los Angeles: The Museum of Contemporary Art, 1997.
De Duve, Thierry. Jeff Wall. New York: Phaidon Press Ltd., 1996.