Lot # 052
Post-War & Contemporary Art Live auction

Jeff Wall
OC 1946 - Canadian

A Wall in a Former Bakery
transparency in light box 2003
46 x 59 1/2 in  116.8 x 151.1cm

Provenance:
Monte Clark Gallery, Vancouver
Private Collection, Vancouver

Literature:
Matthew Barney, Tony Oursler, Jeff Wall, Sammlung Goetz, 1996, page 89
Jeff Wall: Photographs, 1978 – 2004, Tate Modern, 2005, http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-modern/exhibition/jeff-wall/jeff-wall-room-guide/jeff-wall-room-guide-room-5, para. 4, accessed November 15, 2017
Michael Newman, Jeff Wall: Works and Collected Writings, 2007, reproduced page 196
Sean O’Hagan, “Jeff Wall,” The Guardian, November 3, 2015, https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2015/nov/03/jeff-wall-photography-marian-goodman-gallery-show, para. 14, accessed November 15, 2017

"What interested me…was to make pictures that had specific relationships with certain kinds of painting…certain kinds of cinema…and certain kinds of photography…and to find a way of hybridising all that I admired about all those things…I thought, for my purposes, that painting needed to be more psychologically intense, cinema needed to be “arrested” (according to the concepts from Barthes and Benjamin), and photography needed to be made more viable at the scale of the human body, the scale of natural vision, a scale that painting had mastered."

—Jeff Wall on his choice of the medium of transparency in light box

One of the most influential artists working today, Jeff Wall has long been internationally well known, and his work has made an important contribution to viewing photography as a vital contemporary art form. From the early 1990s into the next decade, Wall periodically produced photographs in light boxes of abandoned interior spaces soiled by age and use—such as Diagonal Composition from 1993 (collection of the Tate Modern, London), showing an old, worn sink; Staining Bench, Furniture Manufacturer’s from 2003; and this bakery interior, also from 2003, its wall and ceiling smudged by the heat of a baking oven. In reference to these works, the Tate Modern commented: “These discovered scenes focus attention on the ordinary and overlooked, or as Wall puts it, on ‘the unattributed, anonymous poetry of the world.’ ”

In addressing this theme of interior spaces showing the wear of their usage in Wall’s work, Michael Newman discusses the “difference between abstract painting and photography: an abstract painting can be dirty, or be made of dirt, but it can’t represent the dirty. In the photograph, dirt becomes a picture, giving rise to its own kind of beauty.” A Wall in a Former Bakery is not conventionally sublime, like a beautiful landscape; its attraction arises from examining the images of the everyday and our aesthetic reactions to them—accepting the real. In this work, the old oven and any evidence of the machines are both gone, as are the people who once engaged in this industry. All we see are the remnants of a metal structure at the right edge. The work documents absence, something left behind, but without reference to the story of what actually happened here, other than the identification established by the title. However, this absence is strangely evocative. Images such as this one document the passage of time that has scarred and eroded these surfaces, and evoke the thriving industry that once was there, left behind by modernization.

As Wall stated in the Guardian, “Like painting, my work is very much about composition. That is where the feeling flows—more so than in the expressions on faces or the possible social meanings.” Formally, this image is simple and strong in its composition, and is dominated by vertical, diagonal and horizontal lines. Its planes make it almost abstract, but it is still spatial, dimensional. The backlighting makes the flat surfaces glow, giving rise to the association of the pale stained wall with a colour-field painting. The scorched area rises into the ceiling, its shape and hot orange colour indicating the past presence of heat and the imprint of fiery particles from an oven. Not only does the smudge refer to something elemental, but its shape can also suggest something arising from the subconscious—a mysterious presence. This resonance is a product of Wall’s cinematographic approach to image, and associations such as this make A Wall in a Former Bakery a potent and evocative image.

This light box transparency was produced in an edition of 6. Another edition of this image is in the collection of the Emanuel Hoffman Foundation in Basel, Switzerland.

The dimensions of the entire light box are 53 1/4 x 65 3/4 x 9 7/8 inches.

Estimate: $125,000 ~ $175,000 CAD  

All prices are in Canadian Dollars.

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