Jeff Wall (b. 1946)
Jeff Wall (b. 1946)

Diagonal Composition

Jeff Wall (b. 1946)
Diagonal Composition
transparency in lightbox
15¾ x 18 1/8in. (40 x 46cm.)
Executed in 1993, this work is number nine from an edition of ten plus four artist's proof
Marian Goodman Gallery, New York.
Acquired from the above by the present owner.
Jeff Wall, exh. cat., Tilburg, De Pont museum voor hedendaagse kunst Foundation for Contemporary Art, 1994-95, p. 13.
T. Eccles, "Jeff Wall at Marian Goodman", in Art and America, vol. 83, no. 10, October 1995, pp. 121-122.
F. Migayrou, Jeff Wall. Simple Indication, Brussels 1995, pp. 102-103.
G. Holg, "Jeff Wall: Museum of Contemporary Art", in The Art News, vol. 94, no. 8, October 1995, p. 154.
Jeff Wall, exh. cat., Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art, 1995 (another from the edition illustrated in colour, p. 67).
P. Usherwoord, "Jeff Wall: Whitechapel Art Gallery, London", in Art Monthly, no. 195, April 1996, p. 25.
J-U Albig, "Jeff Wall: Wahrheit ist kein Werk von Sekunden", in ART. Das Kunstmagazin, no. 6, June 1996, p. 25.
R. Vine, "Wall's Wager", in Art in America, vol. 84, no. 4, April 1996, p. 88.
Jeff Wall: Space and Vision, exh. cat., Munich, Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus, 1996, no. 17 (another from the edition illustrated in colour, p. 32).
Matthew Barney, Tony Oursler, Jeff Wall, exh. cat., Munich, Sammlung Goetz, 1996-97 (another from the edition illustrated in colour, p. 84).
R. Rochlitz, L'art du banc d'essai Esthétique et critique, Paris 1998, p. 419.
R. Enright, "The Consolation of Plausibility: An Interview with Jeff Wall" in Border Crossings, vol. 19, issue 1 no. 73, 1999, p. 45.
Jeff Wall: Oeuvres 1990-1998, exh. cat., Montreal, Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal, 1999, p. 12.
home, exh. cat., Perth, Art Gallery of Western Australia, 2000 (another from the edition illustrated in colour, p. 98).
Jeff Wall: Figures & Places: Ausgewählte Werke von 1978 bis 2000, exh. cat., Frankfurt, Museum für Moderne Kunst, 2001 (another from the edition illustrated in colour, p. 11).
T. de Duve, A. Pelenc, B. Groys & J-F. Chevrier, Jeff Wall, London 2002, p. 93.
Malerei ohne Malerei, exh. cat., Leipzig, Museum der bildenden Künste, 2002, p. 37.
Kabinettstücke: Camera Elinga: Pieter Janssens begegnet Jeff Wall, exh. cat., Frankfurt, Städelsches Kunstinstitut, 2002, pp. 28-29.
C. Walter, Bilder erzählen! Positionen inszenierter Fotografie: Eileen Cowin, Jeff Wall, Cindy Sherman, Anna Gaskell, Sharon Lockhart, Tracey Moffatt, Sam Taylor-Wood, Weimar 2002, pp. 127 and 137.
Jeff Wall Photographs: 2002 Hasselblad Award Winner Exhibition, exh. cat., Gothenburg, Hasselblad Center, 2002 (another from the edition illustrated in colour, unpaged).
Jeff Wall, Photographs, exh. cat., Vienna, Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig Vienna, 2003 (another from the edition illustrated in colour, p. 64).
Painting Pictures: Malerei und Medien im Digitalen Zeitalter, exh. cat., Wolfsburg, Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg, 2003, p. 61.
Jetzt und Hier: Die Sammlung zeitgenössischer Kunst
Kleve, Museum Kurhaus Kleve, 2003, no. 42, unpaged.
Jeff Wall-Photographs 1978-2004, exh. cat., Basel, Schaulager, 2005-06 (another from the edition illustrated in colour, frontispiece.
Jeff Wall: Tableaux, exh. cat., Oslo, Astrup Fearnley Museet for Moderne Kunst, 2004 (another from the edition illustrated in colour, p. 71).
C. Burnett, Jeff Wall, London 2005 (another from the edition illustrated in color, p. 69).
T. Vischer & H. Naef (eds.), Jeff Wall: Catalogue Raisonné 1978-2004, Göttingen 2005, no. 49 (illustrated in colour, p. 129).
M. Newman, Jeff Wall Works and Collected Writings, Barcelona 2007 (another from the edition illustrated in colour, unpaged).
Jeff Wall, exh. cat., New York, Museum of Modern Art, 2007 (another from the edition illustrated in colour, p. 103).
M. Lewis, J.-F. Chevrier, T. de Duve, A. Pelenc and B. Groys, Jeff Wall: The Complete Edition, London 2009 (another from the edition illustrated in colour, p. 120).
M. Fried, Why Photography Matters as Art as Never Before, London 2010 (illustrated in colour, p. 53).
Kleve, Museum Kurhaus Kleve, Sammlung Ackermans, 1997 (another from the edition exhibited).
Lisbon, Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian, Deslocação From Here to There, 1997 (another from the edition exhibited).
Leeds, Henry Moore Institute, Here and Now II: Jeff Wall, 1998-99 (another from the edition exhibited).
Castello, Espai d'Art Contemporani de Castelló, Jeff Wall, Pepe Espaliú: Temps Suspés, 1999 (another from the edition exhibited).
Kleve, Museum Kurhaus Kleve, Schöne Aussichten-Neuerwerbungen, 2000 (another from the edition exhibited).
London, Whitechapel Art Gallery, The Whitechapel Art Gallery Centenary Review, 2001 (another from the edition exhibited).
Venice, Biennale di Venezia, Giardini di Castello, Arsenale, Esposizione Internationale d'Arte: Platea dell'u-manitá/Plateau of Humankind, 2001 (another from the edition exhibited).
Rome, Galleria Lorcan O'Neill, Jeff Wall, 2003 (another from the edition exhibited).
Mannheim, Kunsthalle Mannheim, Die Neue Kunsthalle II, 2003-04 (another from the edition exhibited).
Essen, Ruhrlandmuseum Essen, Wirklich wahr!: Realitätsversprechen von Fotografien, 2004 (another from the edition edition exhibited).
Malaga, Centro de Arte Contemporáneo de Málaga, 2003-2008 (on extended loan).


Client Service
Client Service


'The photograph for Diagonal Composition, like those for An Octopus and Some Beans, was taken in the cellar of Walls Studio. It is tempting to see these relatively empty images as a dormant, inanimate underside to the spectacular figure compositions. Yet they are not so different. For all that they may appear more chanced-upon just the set, without the characters the stage of even these scant elements is as powerful as in any of Jeff Wall's work.' (B. Fer. 'The Space of Anxiety', pp. 23-26, Jeff Wall, exh. cat., Chicago, Paris, Helsinki & London, 1996, p. 25).

Diagonal Composition is one of Jeff Wall's best-known images with other examples from the edition owned by the De Pont museum voor hedendaagse kunst, Tillburg, the Museum Kurhaus, Kleve and Tate, London. In this striking picture, Wall has managed to create an image of incredible, formal harmony reminiscent of the De Stijl painters or the Suprematism of Kasimir Malevich, yet he has deliberately done so using as his visual cue a dirty sink in the cellar of his studio. It comes as no surprise to find that Diagonal Composition was used as an anchor for an exploration of Wall's works in the essay, quoted above, by Briony Fer; it has received much attention from critics, in part because it is unposed, a contrast to the large character-filled, set-piece images more familiar from his work and also because of its complex relationship to painting. This is a subject that has often occupied Wall, not least in Restoration, created the same year, which shows a group of conservators working on the Bourbaki Panorama in Lucerne.

Rather than tackle any grand expanse filled with posed figures, in Diagonal Composition Wall has focussed on a tiny corner of his own universe; yet, in terms of composition, he has made it very much his own. The various old materials, for instance the paint-encrusted lino and worn wood, serve here as colour planes reminiscent of Modernist paintings, allowing Wall to play an incredibly agile conceptual game, contrasting the emphatic two-dimensionality of the paintings of his forebears with the clear, essentially life-sized presentation of this basin, soap and shelf. Rather than construct this image of pictorial harmony, he has stumbled upon it. He allows this image to undermine the grandiose posturing and misplaced optimism of the modernists, showing the failure of the ideals and utopianism that they had espoused. Fer has even pointed out that the synthetic materials present in much of the view recall some of those artists' embracing of technology and new media, yet here, they are presented in not only a composition, but a state of decomposition. In this way, Wall manages to bring a sense of grounded social realism to the formalism of the Modernists. Crucially, though, it is a mark of Wall's incredible eye that, out of a scene of filth, he has managed to create an engaging image of pictorial harmony, converting even the most overlooked corners of our modern world into a revelatory celebration of beauty. It is a mark of Wall's own appreciation of Diagonal Composition that, in 1998 and 2000, he created other pictures with the same title, each showing other corners of the everyday world elevated to echo the crisp planes and lines of Suprematism.