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

The Crooked Path

Details
JEFF WALL (B. 1946)
The Crooked Path
transparency in light box
53 1/8 x 65 x 8 5/8in. (135 x 165 x 22cm.)
Executed in 1991, this work is number one from an edition of three plus one artist's proof

Another work from the edition is in the collection of Sammlung Verbund, Vienna and another is currently on extended loan from the Friedrich Christian Flick Collection to the Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin until 2021.
Provenance
Mai 36 Galerie, Berlin.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1994.
Literature
C. van Winkel, 'The Crooked Path: Patterns of Kinetic Energy', in Parkett, no. 33, September 1992, pp. 122 and 128 (another from the edition illustrated in colour, p. 123).
C. van Winkel, 'Blind Figures', in Archis, no. 12, December 1994, pp. 65 and 67 (another from the edition illustrated in colour, p. 64). F. Migayrou, Jeff Wall. Simple indication, Brussels 1995, p. 112.
M. Newman, 'Jeff's Wall's Pictures: Knowledge and Enchantment, in Flash Art, vol. 28, no. 181, March-April 1995, p. 78.
J. Müller and T. Hensel, 'History begins now: ein Interview mit Jeff Wall in Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg', in Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 29 July 1996, p. 15.
A. Wagner, 'Jeff Wall: Fotografie als 'tableau vivant'', in Noëma, no. 42, August-October 1996, p. 92.
B. Gardner, 'Lakonie der Landschaft. Jeff Wall im Gespräch mit Belinda Gardner', in neue bildende kunst, no. 4, August-September 1996, p. 37.
E. Carels, 'Meditaties over het alledaagse: Sokurov, Hosfield, Wall', in Metropolis M, no. 1, February 1997, p. 329, no. 176.
C. Pontbriand, 'the non-sites of Jeff Wall', in Parkett, no. 49, May 1997, pp. 102 and 108 (another from the edition illustrated, p. 101).
R. Rochlitz, L'art au banc d'essai. Esthétique et critique, Paris 1998, p. 409.
N. Gingras, 'On the invisible and other photographic concerns', in Jeff Wall: Oeuvres 1990-1998, exh. cat., Montreal, Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal, 1999, pp. 16 and 87.
A. Wege, 'Jeff Wall', in U. Grosenick, B. Riemschneider (eds.), Art at the Turn of the Millennium, Cologne 1999, pp. 522-523.
J. Gaines, 'Monad or Nomad. Human Beings and Wastelands in the Work of Jeff Wall', in R. Lauter (ed.), Jeff Wall: Figures & Places - selected works from 1978-2000, Munich 2001, pp. 161 and 165 (another from the edition illustrated in colour, p. 160).
R. Lauter, 'Jeff Wall: Figures and Places', in R. Lauter (ed.), Jeff Wall: Figures & Places - selected works from 1978-2000, Munich 2001, p. 91.
B. Reiss, 'Constructing and Apparent Reality: Settings, Gazes, Paraphrases', in R. Lauter (ed.), Jeff Wall: Figures & Places - selected works from 1978-2000, Munich 2001, pp. 189-190.
T. de Duve, A. Pelenc, B. Groys and J. Chevrier (eds.), Jeff Wall, London 2002, p. 175 (another from the edition illustrated in colour, p. 45).
C. Bechtler (ed.), Pictures of Architecture. A Conversation Between Jacques Herzog and Jeff Wall moderated by Philip Ursprung, Basel, November 2003, Küsnacht 2003, p. 43.
C. Burnett, Jeff Wall, London 2005 (another from the edition illustrated in colour, p. 54).
T. Vischer and H. Naef (eds.), Jeff Wall. Catalogue raisonné 1978-2004, Göttingen 2005, p. 331, no. 42 (another from the edition illustrated in colour, p. 115).
M. Newman, Jeff Wall: Works and Collected Writings, Barcelona 2007 (another from the edition illustrated in colour, unpaged).
C. Bechtler and D. Campany (eds.), 'Jeff Wall & Patrick Faigenbaum', in PA Magazine, Küsnacht 2008, p. 70 (illustrated in colour, p. 15).
T. de Duve, A. Pelenc, B. Groys and J. Chevrier (eds.), Jeff Wall: The Complete Edition, London 2009 (another from the edition illustrated in colour, pp. 24-25).
B. Grauman, 'Jeff Wall's 'Crooked Path'', The Wall Street Journal, 27-29 May 2011, p. 13.
S. Milroy, 'Jeff Wall: A Pilgrim's Notebook', in Canadian Art, Summer 2012, p. 100 (another from the edition illustrated in colour, pp. 94-95).
Exhibited
Brussels, Galerie Meert-Rihoux, Jeff Wall, 1991 (another from the edition exhibited). This exhibition later travelled to Milan, Galerie Christian Stein.
Cologne, Galerie Johnen & Schöttle, Jeff Wall: The Vampires' Picnic, 1991 (another from the edition exhibited).
Berlin, Martin-Gropius-Bau, Metropolis, 1991, no. 176 (another from the edition exhibited, illustrated, p. 329).
Humlebaek, Louisiana Museum of Art, Jeff Wall, 1992, no. 9 (another from the edition illustrated, p. 35).
Lucerne, Kunstmuseum Luzern, Jeff Wall, 1993-1994 (another from the edition exhibited). This exhibition later travelled to Dublin, Irish Museum of Modern Art, Hamburg, Diechtorhallen Hamburg, Dusseldorf, Kunsthalle Düsseldorf.
Tilburg, De Pont museum voor hedendaagse kunst, Jeff Wall, 1994, pp. 12 and 35 (another from the edition exhibited, illustrated in colour, unpaged).
London, Hayward Gallery, The Epic & the Everyday: Contemporary Photographic Art, 1994, p. 14 (another from the edition exhibited, illustrated in colour, unpaged).
Wolfsburg, Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg, Jeff Wall: Landscapes and Other Pictures, 1996, pp. 20, 21 and 81, no. 10 (another from the edition exhibited, illustrated in colour, p. 39).
Barcelona, Galeria Estrany-de la Mota, Bésos Mar - Catalunya/At the Edge of the Landscape, 1997 (another from the edition exhibited).
H. Vic, Association for Contemporary Arts/L'Albergueria, 1997 (another from the edition exhibited).
Washington, D.C., Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Jeff Wall, 1997-1998, p. 162 (illustrated in colour, p.111). This exhibition later travelled to Los Angeles, Museum of Contemporary Art and Mito, Art Tower Mito.
Kingston-upon-Hull, Ferens Art Gallery, Chemical Traces: Photography and Conceptual Art: 1968-1998, 1998, p. 73, no. 8 (another from the edition exhibited and illustrated in colour, unpaged).
Cologne, SK Stiftung Kultur, Jeff Wall: Bilder von Landschaften, 1999, p. 31 (another from the edition exhibited, illustrated in colour, p. 19).
Rotterdam, Nederlands Foto Instituut, August Sander en Jeff Wall, 1999 (another from the edition exhibited).
Ottawa, National Gallery of Canada, Elusive Paradise: The Millennium Prize, 2001, pp. 128 and 134 (another from the edition exhibited, illustrated in colour, p. 133).
Basel, Museum für Gegenwartskunst, en pleine terre: Eine Wanderung zwischen Landschaft und Kunst, Spiral Jetty und Potsdamer Schrebergärten, 2001 (illustrated in colour, unpaged).
Gothenburg, Hasselblad Center, The Hasselblad Award, Jeff Wall: Photographs, 2002 (another from the edition exhibited).
Zurich, Kunsthaus Zürich, Wallflowers, 2002, no. 39 (another from the edition exhibited).
Manchester, Manchester Art Gallery, Jeff Wall Landscapes, 2002-2003 (another from the edition exhibited, illustrated in colour, p. 17). This exhibition later travelled to Norwich, Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery.
Vienna, Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig Vienna, Jeff Wall, Photographs, 2003, pp. 51, 97 and 107, no. 25 ( illustrated in colour, unpaged).
Hamburg, Hamburger Bahnhof, The Friedrich Christian Flick Collection, 2004-2021 (another from the edition on extended loan).
Basel, Schaulager Basel, Jeff Wall: Photographs 1978-2004, 2005-2006, p. 331, no. 42 (illustrated in colour, p. 115). This exhibition later travelled to London, Tate Modern, p. 77.
Bern, Zentrum Paul Klee, Lost Paradise. Der Blick des Engels, 2008. Dresden, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, Kunsthalle im Lipsiusbau, Jeff Wall: Transit, 2010, p. 44 (another from the edition exhibited, illustrated in colour on the cover and pp. 45, and 101).
Brussels, BOZAR Centre for Fine Arts, Jeff Wall: The Crooked Path, 2011, pp. 16-19, 42-43 and 242 (another from the edition exhibited, illustrated in colour, p. 14). This exhibition later travelled to Santiago de Compostela, Galician Contemporary Art Centre.
Bonn, Kunstmuseum Bonn, Through the Looking Brain: A Swiss Collection of Conceptual Photography, 2011-2012, p. 231 (illustrated in colour, pp. 192-193). This exhibition later travelled to St. Gallen, Kunstmuseum St. Gallen.
Salzburg, Museum der Moderner Kunst, Open Spaces/Secret Places. Works from Sammlung Verbund, 2013, p. 183 (another from the edition exhibited, illustrated in colour, p. 41). This exhibition later travelled to Vienna, Vertical Gallery, Sammlung Verbund.
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Brought to you by

Alexandra Werner
Alexandra Werner

Lot Essay

'I make landscapes, or cityscapes as the case may be to work out for myself what kind of picture (or photograph) we call a 'landscape' is. This permits me also to recognize the other kinds of picture with which it has necessary connections, or the other genres that a landscape might conceal within itself'
(J. Wall, 'About Making Landscapes', Jeff Wall, London, 1996, p. 140).


The Crooked Path, 1991, is a key work by Jeff Wall, one of the pioneers of the movement establishing photography as a contemporary art form. A defining photograph for the artist, The Crooked Path, has been included in virtually all of his major exhibitions. Created in Vancouver in the winter of 1991, The Crooked Path is positioned in Wall's output between A ventriloquist at a Birthday Party in October 1947, 1990, where the speaking doll performs as proxy for the human, and Dead Troops, 1992, where the vacant souls of the deceased rise up and engage in lively conversation. In The Crooked Path the protagonist is the absent wanderer, as evidenced by the physical echo of the footsteps of all those distant people who have passed this way before. Where many of Wall's pictures feature the act of speaking as a trope to illustrate the inherent silence and objecthood of a photograph, here the empty path of this hyper-real scene is the resounding echo: a linear trace of absent life. The scene we are witness to is the aftermath of an event we must craft in our mind. Wall is often described as a flâneur, or idle stroller, and in his contemporary revision of the wasteland, The Crooked Path is notable for the stillness it portrays.

Wall captures this overlooked landscape with all the intricacy and precision of classical painting. Paying homage to the compositional vocabulary of Poussin, Wall places the action outside of the scene in order to illustrate narrative drama taken from real life, bringing to light the equivocality inherent in all that we see. In its presentation in a photographic light-box furthers this quality of the represented image, the path leading into its interior, glowing hearth. Often used for advertising purposes, by mounting the gloss colour transparencies in a backlit aluminum edged box that lends the work a hyper-real glow, Wall heightens the concept of the power of the picture to create illusion.

Stretching into the distance, the linear perceptive and indefinite vanishing point employs a purposefully high horizon line which reaches to the very top of the composition. Adapting a Cézanne-like line of perspective, Wall situates the viewer along the path, inviting us to following this furrowed trail. As the winding path ambles into the distance, it leads the eye through overgrown foliage and bare brush, in which trees become telephone lines, giving way to urban buildings demarking the landscape. Where Cézanne's painting tends to soften the rougher edges of the contemporary moment in accord with the more idealistic aesthetics of the time, Wall's picture is rooted in the roughness or even incompleteness of the scene, capturing the abandonment of space once 'inhabited'. Punctuated by candy coloured chromatic boxes in the distance, the artist reminds us of the presence of humanity.

As the eye journeys up the composition, the beauty becomes dark and intriguing; the subject matter, the scale and the composition all combining to produce an unnerving sense of perspective, upsetting a balance that Wall sees as having dominated art for far too long, 'my landscape work has also been a way to reflect on internal structural problems in other types of pictures. In doing that, it's been possible to rethink, for myself, some rather obvious and conventional things about the genre of landscape as a genre' (J. Wall, 'About Making Landscapes', Jeff Wall, London, 1996, p. 246). Refreshing this pictorial tradition for the contemporary audience through his meticulous photographic practice, in The Crooked Path Wall shines a light on the overlooked aspects of the urban environment.

The title The Crooked Path is significant to the artist, as evidence by his choice to use its name for his exhibition at Bozar, Brussels, where Wall selected 25 works to display alongside historical and other contemporary artists. An allegory for the artist's creative process, Wall surmises, 'it's a metaphor for the uncertainty of development, the surprises that come along the way in art you can make use of all the little parts of that crooked path. In life, things can be more complicated (J. Wall, quoted in B. Grauman, 'Jeff Wall's Crooked Path', The Wall Street Journal, 27 May 2011, p. 13).
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