JEFF WALL (B. 1946)
JEFF WALL (B. 1946)
JEFF WALL (B. 1946)
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JEFF WALL (B. 1946)

Rear, 304 E 25th Ave., May 20 1997, 1.14 & 1.17 p.m.

JEFF WALL (B. 1946)
Rear, 304 E 25th Ave., May 20 1997, 1.14 & 1.17 p.m.
montage of two gelatin silver prints, in artist's frame
overall: 96 7⁄8 x 142 7⁄8in. (246 x 363cm.)
Executed in 1997, this work is number one from an edition of two plus one artist’s proof
Marian Goodman Gallery, New York.
Henry Buhl Collection, New York (acquired from the above in 1998).
Acquired from the above by the present owner.
T. de Duve (et. al), Jeff Wall, London 1996 (another from the edition illustrated, p. 149; incorrectly titled 'Rear, 304 W.25 Ave., May 20, 1997, 1.41 & 1.42 p.m.').
U. M. Reindl, ‘Jeff Wall: Galerie Johnen & Schöttle, Cologne, 13.2. - 18.4.1998’, in Kunstforum International, no. 140, April-June 1998, p. 387 (incorrectly titled 'Rear, 304 E. 25 Ave., Vancouver, 9. May 1997, 1.14 & 1.17 p.m,').
G. T. Turner, ‘Jeff Wall’, in Flash Art, vol. 31, no. 200, May-June 1998, pp. 137-138 (illustrated, p. 137; incorrectly titled 'Rear, 304 East 25 Ave., Vancouver, 9 May, 1997, 1:14 & 1:17 pm').
L. Morris (ed.), Jeff Wall: Landscapes, exh. cat., Manchester, Manchester Art Gallery, 2002-2003 (another from the edition illustrated, p. 30; incorrectly titled 'Rear, 304 East 25th Ave., Vancouver, 9 May 1997, 1.14 & 1.17pm').
C. Walter, Bilder erzählen! Positionen Inszenierter Fotografie: Eileen Cowin, Jeff Wall, Cindy Sherman, Anna Gaskell, Sharon Lockhart, Tracey Moffat, Sam Taylor-Wood, Weimar 2002, p. 128 (incorrectly titled 'Rear, 304 East 25 Ave, Vancouver, Mai 1997').
H. Naef and T. Vischer (eds.), Jeff Wall Catalogue Raisonné, 1978-2004, Göttingen 2005, no. 76 (illustrated, pp. 180-181 and 383).
M. Newman, Jeff Wall Works and Collected Writings, Barcelona 2007 (illustrated, p. 67).
T. de Duve, Jeff Wall: The Complete Edition, London 2009 (illustrated, pp. 70-71).
New York, Marian Goodman Gallery, Jeff Wall, 1998.
Cologne, Galerie Johnen & Schöttle, Jeff Wall: Photographs, 1998 (another from the edition exhibited).
Castelló, Espai d'Art Contemporani de Castelló, Jeff Wall, Pepe Espaliú: Temps Suspés, 1999, p. 189 (illustrated on the front cover; illustrated, pp. 92-93; incorrectly titled 'Rear, 304 East 25 Ave., Vancouver, 9 May 1997, 1.14 & 1.17 PM').
Madrid, Galeria Helga de Alvear, Jeff Wall, 2001 (another from the edition exhibited).
Frankfurt am Mein, Museum für Moderne Kunst, Jeff Wall: Figures & Places, Selected Works from 1978-2000, 2001-2002, pp. 77 and 198, no. 21 (another from the edition exhibited; illustrated, pp. 82-83).
Barcelona, MACBA Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Barcelona, MACBA Collection, 2002 (another from the edition exhibited).
New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Speaking with Hands: Photographs from The Buhl Collection, 2004-2006, p. 262 (illustrated, pp. 146-147 and 252; incorrectly titled 'Rear, 304 East 25th Avenue, Vancouver, 9 May 1997, 1.14 & 1.17 pm'). This exhibition later travelled to Bilbao, Guggenheim Museum Bilbao.
New York, The Museum of Modern Art, Jeff Wall, 2007-2008, pp. 49 and 161 (illustrated, pp. 118-119). This exhibition later travelled to Chicago, The Art Institute of Chicago and San Francisco, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
New York, Guggenheim Museum, Haunted: Contemporary Photography/Video/Performance, 2010.
New York, David Zwirner, The House Without The Door, 2011.
Brussels, BOZAR Centre for Fine Arts, The Crooked Path, 2011-2012, pp. 237 and 246 (another from the edition exhibited; illustrated, p. 227). This exhibition later travelled to Santiago, Centro Galego de Arte Contemporánea.
New York, Marc Straus Gallery, Jeff Wall and Thomas Bangsted, 2013.
Amsterdam, Stedelijk Musuem, Jeff Wall: Tableaux Pictures Photographs 1996-2013, 2014-2015, pp. 22, 48 and 115 (another from the edition exhibited, illustrated, p. 49). This exhibition later travelled to Bregenz, Kunsthaus Bregenz ans Humlebaek, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art.
Further Details
Another from the edition is on long-term to Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona, Barcelona.

Brought to you by

Claudia Schürch
Claudia Schürch Senior Specialist, Head of Evening Sale

Lot Essay

Presently the subject of a major retrospective exhibition at the Fondation Beyeler, Basel, Jeff Wall is one of the most renowned photographers of our time. Rear, 304 E 25th Ave., May 20 1997, 1.14 & 1.17 p.m. (1997) is an important photo-montage from Wall’s first series of black and white compositions. It is exemplary in its grand scale, cinematic suspense and conceptual intrigue. The mural-sized silver gelatin print spans over two metres high and three-and-a-half metres wide. It depicts a young woman standing outside the back door of a dilapidated house in Vancouver, Canada. A smaller photograph is overlaid at the right-hand edge, showing the woman’s hands exchanging something with an unseen person through a hole in the door. Wall’s title indicates that the two images are of moments three minutes apart. Like stills from a film, they gesture towards a larger narrative. The story behind the scenes, however, remains tantalisingly unresolved. While it has the appearance of a documentary photograph—enhanced by the use of black and white—the work is in fact an artificial tableau, carefully staged by the artist and posed by a model. The motif of the closed door teases our own desire for answers. The photograph is a pictorial façade, with the other side supplied by our imagination. Previously in the prestigious Henry Buhl Collection of photography, the work has been exhibited in major institutional shows at venues including at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, the Art Institute of Chicago and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York.

As they do not illustrate actual events, Wall’s works instead offer themselves up for poetic and metaphoric readings. Craig Burnett has likened them to ‘prose poems’, distinct from the straightforward ‘prose’ of photojournalism which they might outwardly resemble (C. Burnett, Jeff Wall, London 2005, p. 32). Here, with its indication of a drug deal, Wall presents the picture as a locus of desire or addiction—we want it to tell us something, to reveal a truth behind the door—while the house exhibits signs of entropy and danger. The building’s shabby realism contrasts with the formal beauty of the composition, which, with its theatrical shadows and dynamic diagonals, recalls a painting by Edward Hopper. The woman is framed by two brightly-lit wooden supports. The windows and door offer a succession of pictures within pictures, each shuttered or obscure. Our view of the stairs is cut off halfway, denying us entry through the junk-strewn balcony. The door has no handle; the woman waits next to a black hole.

Wall was born in 1946 in Vancouver, where he still lives and works today. A student of art history rather than fine art—he received his masters from London’s Courtauld Institute in 1973—his works are informed by a deep love for the act of looking at pictures, and an admiration for the scale and power of traditional easel painting. Film, too, plays a central role in his approach. After graduating from the Courtauld, he worked at an independent cinema in Vancouver. Tasked with checking the physical condition of the prints, he began to appreciate the photographic qualities of European arthouse films by Ingmar Bergman, Jean Eustache, Michelangelo Antonioni and Rainer Werner Fassbinder. Wall came to realise that a photograph need not document a real moment, place or thing, but could be assembled like a still piece of cinema. The artist could be a director, working with a team of actors, set-builders and technicians to realise his vision.

Wall’s breakthrough came in the late 1970s with his ‘lightbox’ photographs, which realised some of these ideas in huge, back-lit colour transparencies. Many of them offered photo-conceptual twists on canonical paintings, such as Delacroix’s The Death of Sardanapalus (1827), or Manet’s A Bar at the Folies-Bergère (1882). After a formative viewing experience of Velázquez’s Las Meninas (1656) in the Prado, Madrid, Wall had been struck by the glowing images he saw at bus terminals on his journey from Spain to London. ‘And it just clicked’, he remembered, ‘that those back-lit pictures might be a way of doing photography that would somehow connect these elements of scale and the body that were important to Judd and Newman and Pollock, as well as Velázquez, Goya, Titian or Manet’ (J. Wall, quoted in P. Vickers, ‘Wall Pieces’, Art Monthly, no. 179, September 1994, pp. 3-7).

The present work belongs to Wall’s first group of black and white photographs, which he made between 1996 and 1997, as soon as he had the means to make such large gelatin prints in his own studio. ‘Part of my interest in taking up black and white photography was to rethink my relation to the documentary tradition’, he said. ‘Or, maybe more precisely, to the assumption that uncoloured photographs signify something we call “documentary”’ (J. Wall, quoted in C. Burnett, ibid., p. 81). Wall’s subject matter often featured the physical and social decay of the area around his studio in Vancouver, echoing the work of photographers such as August Sander and Walker Evans, who chronicled the stark realities of their time in black and white. The present photograph stages a complex play with the truth-claims of the medium, and the desires and assumptions that lie behind our relationship with photographs at large. Fact, fiction, real-world observation and poised pictorial beauty all coexist, unresolved, in Wall’s constructed image. For him, the deferral of a final answer is one of art’s great joys. Like a photojournalist, he says, ‘I am also putting forward a claim, but mine is suspended; it’s not proven or dismissed, but suspended, and in that suspension is pleasure’ (ibid., p. 31).

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