03 September 2007
The Jeff Wall Exhibit
My few faithful readers are a due a new installment and something besides a narcissistic rambling, so I decided to write about a recent cultural experience.
The Art Institute has free evenings from 5-9 Thursday and Friday all summer. Well, there are posters all over the city for the Jeff Wall retrospective that they have been running and I was intrigued. Friday night I made it in for about an hour before I had to catch the bus to small group.
First, one should never go to a public exhibit on a free evening on a holiday weekend. One is bound to run into MANY unappreciative tourists who seem bent on viewing as many objets d'art in the shortest time possible, whilst commenting on the general lack of excitement such a viewing incurs.
Second, it is always valuable to find an exhibit that will place viewing benches in front of artwork that you are actually interested in meditating on as an escape from the trampling hordes.
Third, one should remember that, no matter how much longer one dawdles in front of said artwork, attempting to escape the press, the hordes will invariable run one down, hence the rapid pace people make through such exhibits.
In all honesty, it wasn't really that bad. I was just kicking myself for not taking the opportunity to get down there sooner, since I live a whopping 1.5 miles from the Art Institute--a straight shot north up Michigan from the apartment.
Jeff Wall is an amazing artist. I read in one of the catalogs that he only creates about 5 images a year... not much for a photographer and a risky proposition for an artist at any time. But those 5 images are intense, to say the least. The link to the Art Institute website does not begin to give you an understanding of his artwork. I am including a few links that give a slightly better sense, but even they hardly do justice. His pictures are printed on film and mounted over a lightbox, basically huge transparencies, and almost without exception they are large and imposing.
Here are links to a few of my favorite images:
A Sudden Gust of Wind
The Invisible Man
Some Beans and Octopus
There were other images that I would have including if good links were available. If you are in the Chicago area before the end of the month, I encourage you to take a look at the exhibit. Thursday evenings are still free and the exhibit is free.
I wanted to make some philosophical reflections on Wall's artwork, but I hardly know where to begin. Photography is an interesting medium. There is a feeling of reality, authenticity in photography that makes you think you are seeing the truth. A moment, caught in time, lies suspended before you in the gallery. Wall's work often looks spontaneous and dramatic, as if he had the magic touch and just saw the moment as it happened. Reading a bit about him, however, revealed that he was the master of manipulating the image; that he spent countless hours digitally blending 100s of images to create one masterwork. No wonder he only did 5 pieces a year!
One that I did not include in the list is called A Flooded Grave. I could not find a good link for it, so this one will have to be adequate. It is an image of a recently dug grave that is filled with a plethora of sealife. The setting is so mundane that the appearance of a grave full of starfish and anemones seems reasonable, until you take the time to think about it. In each image there was the opportunity to think about the complex machinations that were necessary to create a seemingly natural moment. This sounds so flat on the page, but it was a very rich experience.
The Jeff Wall exhibit reminded me yet again of why I am so interested in art and why I wish I were a much more skilled contributor. Excellent art provokes a thoughtfulness and contemplation that is not generally available in the world I live in on a daily basis. I need to take more time out to meditate on them. It might prompt something really beautiful in my life.
Isn't it amazing that we belong to a Creator God who would pour so much ability into His frail creations that we might begin to act and work in His image as creators as well?