Jeff Wall is one of the most important and fascinating artists working in photography today, and undoubtedly one of those responsible for positioning photography at the forefront of the contemporary art scene. His work has influenced many artists and helped shape the contemporary critical discourse on photography. In the last three decades, Wall has presented numerous exhibitions, including retrospectives at Tate Modern in London and the Museum of Modern Art in New York. The exhibition at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art
comprises works from his early days to the present, in a variety of techniques. Some works are street photography in a "near-documentary" style, and some present complex art-historical and cultural references. Others are staged or reconstructed photographs in a "cinematographic" style, which blurs the distinction between the commonplace and the spectacular and between the documentary and the fantastic, vacillating between the darkness of film noir and an everyday simplicity. In addition to a large selection of Wall's well-known workswhich are often composed of a multiplicity of staged scenes painstakingly processed to create a large-scale image in a light boxthe exhibition also features color and black-and-white photographs made mainly in the last decade. These impressive large prints, measuring up to three meters and more in remarkable photographic realism, offer a unique viewing experience.
Wall's subversion of artistic conventions and accepted generic photographic forms is to a certain extent a realization of the role assigned by Charles Baudelaire to the artist as "the painter of modern life," who reflects life as it is and distills eternal beauty from the transitory. Wall refers to the passing moment and to everyday life, but despite his pictures' direct appearance they are not images of a "decisive moment." His avoidance of the clichés of documentary photography underlies his "near-documentary" style. It also informs his "cinematographic" practice, which involves a meticulous reconstruction of situations evoked from memory and of past impressions. In these works, Wall draws attention to both the mental and technical processing of the image, emphasizing its distance from automatic or casual perception.