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Jeff Wall at White Cube Paris Office


18 January - 19 February 2022

White Cube is pleased to present an exhibition of Jeff Wall works, selected from the late 1990s to the past year, at 10 avenue Matignon in Paris.

The pictures in this exhibition feature lone figures or small groups of people. In Man at mirror (2019), the protagonist is in a hotel room looking into a mirror on which a message has been written in soap. There is no indication of who has written the message, which, being seen from a sharp angle, is illegible.

Sunseeker (2021), shot this past summer in Los Angeles, shows a woman dressed in black sitting cross legged on the roof of a car under intense sunshine, face turned skyward and seemingly in meditation. The situation seems eccentric, and the narrative unclear.

Authentication. Claus Jahnke, costume historian, examining a document relating to an item in his collection (2010), is a four-part work comprised of three documentary photographs and a portrait. Wall depicts Jahnke, a Vancouver fashion collector and costume historian, looking at a catalogue for the 1932 winter season from the Nathan Israel Department Store in Berlin. The prominent Jewish business was ‘Aryanized’ by the National Socialists in 1939. The catalogue, shown in two photographs, includes a selection of men’s white shirts. A separate image shows one such shirt, which retains its original N. Israel label, hanging in Jahnke’s home. The artifact plus the published catalogue entries, authenticates the shirt’s unlikely survival through a terrible history.

Pawnshop (2009), and Figures on a sidewalk (2008), exemplify the ‘neo-realist’ or ‘near-documentary’ approach that is at the core of Wall’s practice. While the individuals in Pawnshop are selling whatever possessions they own as a means to survive, the composition and structure of the shop’s interior, resembling a row of confession booths or changing rooms, suggests that their actions might be more ritualistic and of profound importance. Figures on a sidewalk is at once an act of noticing the existence of a specific individual and an intricate composition in colour. 

Mask maker (2015), is among several works that relate to ideas of masquerade or appearance. In the image, a man in colourful clothes decorates his mask using a shuttered shop window as a mirror. This photograph, like several others, recreates a scene the artist witnessed in Los Angeles.

Rooted in a relationship with painting and cinema – where the boundaries between fact and fiction, fantastical and actual are always fluid – Wall’s pictures complicate the notion of photography as bearing witness. Although often emerging from real life occurrences, his pictures construct singular moments within the ‘boundless domain of picture making’, with figures that are both enigmatic and emblematic.

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