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

The Arrest

Jeff Wall (b. 1946)
The Arrest
transparency in lightbox
53½ x 64 1/8 x 11 1/8in. (136 x 163 x 28.3cm.)
Executed in 1989, this work is number one from an edition of three plus one artist's proof
Galerie Pierre Huber, Geneva.
Friedrich Petzel Gallery, New York.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1998.
E. Heartney, 'Jeff Wall: Marian Goodman', in Art News, vol. 88, no. 10, December 1989, p. 160.
Jeff Wall, exh. cat., Tilburg, De Pont museum voor hedendaagse kunst, Foundation for Contemporary Art, 1994-1995, pp. 11 and 34.
F. Migayrou, Jeff Wall. Simple Indication, Brussels 1995, p. 110.
L. Baltz, 'Jeff Wall, peintre de la vie moderne', in L'Architecture d'Aujourd'hui, vol. 305, June 1996, pp. 13-15.
Art and Film Since 1945: Hall of Mirrors, exh. cat., Los Angeles, Museum of Contemporary Art, 1996-1998, p. 26.
R. Vine, 'Wall's Wager', in Art in America, vol. 84, no. 4, April 1996, pp. 89 and 91.
B. Gardner, 'Lakonie der Landschaft. Jeff Wall im Gespräch mit Belinda Gardner,' in Neue Gesellschaft für Bildende kunst, no. 4, August-September, 1996, p. 41.
T. de Duve, A. Pelenc, B. Groys, J.-F. Chevrier, Jeff Wall, London 1996 (another from the edition illustrated in colour, p. 37).
C. Pontbriand, 'The non-sites of Jeff Wall/Die Nicht-Orte des Jeff Wall', in Parkett, no. 49, May 1997, pp. 98 and 103.
Jeff Wall, exh. cat., Washington, D.C., Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, 1997 (another from the edition illustrated, unpaged).
C. Conter, Made in Canada. Das nationale Landschaftsbild Kanadas, dargestellt anhand der group of seven und ihrer zeit. Mit einem Ausblick auf das Naturgefühl bei zeitgenössischen Künstlern in Kanada, Salzburg 1998, pp. 310 and 314.
Jeff Wall: Bilder von Landschaften, exh. cat., Cologne, Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur, 1999, pp. 27-30.
Jeff Wall: Figures & Places: Ausgewählte Werke von 1978 bis 2000 exh. cat., Frankfurt, Museum für Moderne Kunst, 2001, pp. 164, 170, 171 and 190.
Elusive Paradise: The Millennium Prize, exh. cat., Ottawa, National Literature Gallery of Ottawa, 2001, p. 128.
C. Walter, Bilder erzählen! Positionen inszenierter Fotographie: Eileen Cowin, Jeff Wall, Cindy Sherman. Anna Gaskell, Sharon Lockhart, Tracey Moffatt, Sam Taylor- Wood, Weimar 2002, p. 125.
T. Vischer & H. Naef (eds.), Jeff Wall: Catalogue Raisonné 1978-2004, Göttingen 2005, no. 37 (another from the edition illustrated in colour, p. 105).
M. Newman, Jeff Wall Works and Collected Writings, Barcelona 2007 (another from the edition illustrated in colour, p. 89).
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. 263).
Cologne, Galerie Johnen & Schöttle, Jeff Wall, 1989 (another from the edition exhibited).
New York, Marian Goodman Gallery, A Group Show, 1990 (another from the edition exhibited).
Geneva, Galerie Pierre Huber, La revanche de l'image: part I, 1991 (another from the edition exhibited).
Brussels, Palais des Beaux-Arts, Jeff Wall, 1992 (another from the edition exhibited).
Humlebaek, Lousiana Museum of Art, Jeff Wall, 1992 (another from the edition exhibited).
Lucerne, Kunstmuseum Luzern, Jeff Wall, 1993 (another from the edition exhibited). This exhibition later travelled to Dublin, Irish Museum of Modern Art; Hamburg, Deichtorhallen Hamburg; Dusseldorf, Kunsthalle Düsseldorf.
Norwich, Norwich Gallery, Norwich School of Art and Design, Renegotiations: Class, Modernity and Photography, 1993 (another from the edition exhibited, illustrated in colour p. 41).
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The dramatic power of Jeff Wall's 1989 The Arrest embodies the stirring theatre of history painting. Ethereally lit from within, the radiant luminosity of the large scale photographic light-box evokes the sublime undertones of Renaissance paintings. Refreshing this pictorial tradition for the contemporary audience through his meticulous photographic practice, in The Arrest Wall shines a light on the overlooked aspects of the urban environment. Executed on a monumental scale, Wall captures the quotidian experience with all the intricacy and scale of Old Master painting. As the artist suggests, 'I just kept seeing these things at the bus terminals', recounts Wall, 'and it just clicked that those backlit pictures might be a way of doing photography that would somehow connect those elements of scale and the body that were important to Donald Judd and Barnett Newman and Jackson Pollock, as well as Velázquez, Goya, Titian or Manet' (J. Wall, quoted in C. Burnett, Jeff Wall, London 2005, p. 9).

In this poignant photographic tableaux, the saturated high definition colour emitted from the interior lit light-box imparts the perfection of a Hollywood film set. The large-format transparency is illuminated from behind its aluminium mounting; the glowing image recalls the spotlit signs of cinema. Much of the artist's work is marked by a pronounced cinematographic quality, many of his working practices mirroring those used on a film set - collaborating with performers, finding locations, using digital technology to combine several images into a single picture. The cinematographic tension of The Arrest suggests that we are witnessing a fragment of a much larger narrative. As Wall has explained: 'In the aesthetic of art photography as it was inspired by photojournalism, the image is clearly a fragment of a greater hole which itself can never be experienced directly. The fragment then, somehow, makes that whole visible or comprehensible, maybe through a complex typology of gestures, objects, moods and so on' (J. Wall, quoted in, A. Pelenc, 'in correspondence with Jeff Wall' in: Thierry de Duve, et al., Jeff Wall, London 2003, p. 9).

In The Arrest Wall captures the essence of tactility: the policeman's finger probing into the denim pocket of the man is central to the work as invasive as the fingers of Thomas prodding the wounds of Christ in Caravaggio's rendering of The Incredulity of St. Thomas (1602-1603). The direct effect of the lighting on the figures accentuates the texture of the photograph: the shearling of the coat, the coarseness of the denim, the smoothness of skin. The gloss of the image suggests a comment on the commercialised consumption of the news, manufactured quality of its content. Its perfected quality suggesting the role of the image-makers and their control over the photographic images we perceive as reality.

Just as the best of Wall's works operate as social commentary, The Arrest offers an observation into an unfolding social crisis. Between 1988 and 1989, Wall's practice took a distinct shift to more overt depictions of conflict within society focusing on largely overlooked scenes of sexual, racial and class-based oppression. A socially charged subject, The Arrest alludes to underlying oppositions between race and class existing in the urban environment. As the artist confirms, 'I think [my photographs] already have an important element present in political perspectives: They portray human relationships. And all human relationships are, in some way, political. The main subject of many of my photographs is the comparison between individuals, between people in conflict, people who have been abused by others or by society. I work through intuition. If I see something and it strikes me as a possible photo, I know that the reason lies in my relationship with that social material. I do not try to define that relationship. I just think, 'Here is a photo. It contains something,' and I take it from there. In every photo there is something special, but that something is not always definable. I like that. It is something that you can find in all interesting art: A social reading is there but you can't quite put your finger on it and say exactly what it means. This is what makes it interesting' (J. Wall, quoted in M. Acciaro, 'Floating in an Emotional Ocean of Art with Jeff Wall', Vice, October 2012, accessible at http:/ of-art-with-jeff-wall). Pulling both references art historical and societal references, Wall acts as chronicler of contemporary socioeconomic issues in a timeless manner.