"The Frozen Moment"
The press on the Jeff
Wall show Exposure at the Deutsche Guggenheim
his elaborately orchestrated tableaus, Jeff Wall has played a key role in
establishing photography as a form of contemporary art. For the exhibition
"Exposure" at the Deutsche Guggenheim, the Canadian has created four new
large-scale black and white photographs that are augmented by a selection
of earlier works. The show at the Berlin exhibition hall not only
celebrates one of the most important artists of the present day, but also
the 10th anniversary of the joint venture between Deutsche Bank and the
Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, one that is unique worldwide.
Walde from the Berliner Morgenpost speaks of an "exhibition coup"
in reference to the current Jeff
Wall show at the Deutsche
Guggenheim. She finds that "the small 3,500 square-foot exhibition
space" has developed into one of "he city's most influential art
institutions" over the past ten years of its existence. Elke Linda
Buchholz of the Stuttgarter Zeitung also points out that size isn't
everything: "Once again, the Deutsche Guggenheim knows how to focus its
limited spatial capacities to produce a particularly concentrated effect."
And in the taz, Brigitte Werneburg writes: "a fundamental tenet of
20th-century Modernism proves to be true again at the bank building on
Unter den Linden: Less is more." With "no more than nine large-scale
provides "lucid insight" into Jeff Wall's work. To her mind, his images
tell of living conditions in western industrial societies, "in which
people have to sell their labor day after day." To this purpose, however,
Wall takes recourse to "aesthetic instead of agitational means." Despite
this, Wall's "carefully considered compositions … clearly express empathy
with the people portrayed, as well as the anger, pain, but also admiration
he feels and translates into a formally complex pictorial language."
Thomas Wulffen of the Tagesspiegel also admires the
Canadian art photographer's "precarious likenesses"; he describes their
power as resulting from a specific connection between reality and fiction:
"Jeff Wall depicts particular living conditions in an entirely concrete
way while protecting the dignity of the persons represented (…). This
might be due to the works' 'construction'. (…) Apparently, the viewer only
arrives at reality through fiction." Anja Lösel sees this very similarly
in stern.de: "He's not interested in things being real, but rather
that the image conveys truth. Some hold this against him and consider him
to be a counterfeiter. But perhaps he's closer to the truth than many
documentary photographers." On the other hand, Peter Körte of the FAS
sees Wall as a "director" uninterested in "frank social statements," but
in compositional issues. "The longer one looks at these photographs, the
more their structure and quality of line become apparent."
Elke Buhr of the Frankfurter Rundschau, the "almost sublime
perfection" of "Wall's elaborate image worlds, which always seems like
movie films shrunken down into single images" (Ralf Hanselle/ Zitty),
"fit ideally in the distinguished rooms of the Deutsche Guggenheim, which
are hung cleanly down to the very last detail." Yet the social issues are
"always at a certain distance in his complex arrangements – the aesthetic
aspect guards against the primitiveness of a documentary's grappling
around in the dirt, but it also to a certain extent protects them against
The Berliner Zeitung dedicates a two-page
portrait to Wall, "the virtuoso of the uncertain" (Peter Geimer/ FAZ).
For Ingeborg Ruthe, the quality of his works resides in just this unique
mixture of staging and documentation, with which he succeeds in "setting
new, universally valid standards in photography." In the images'
"dreamlike precision of everyday horror," the "cold pain of alienation
seems frozen. They are diagrams of relationships that either aren't, or
have been destroyed." Ute Thon of art is also thoroughly
convinced by Wall's scenarios, in which he "arrests everyday scenes in a
neo-realist style" to create "oppressive stage settings." "His work Cold
Storage, Vancouver offers a view of a cathedral-like, abandoned
cooling cellar (…) – a mysterious sight situated somewhere between frosty
melancholy and sacral vision. The frozen moment that every photograph
depicts is the defining image motif here. Good art can be this cold, and