- Jeff Wall
- A woman consulting a catalogue
- transparency in lightbox
- 165 by 133.5 by 26cm.; 65 by 52 1/2 by 10 1/4 in.
- Excecuted in 2005, this work is number 5 from an edition of 5, plus 1 artist's proof.
Acquired directly from the above by the present owner in 2006
London, Hauser and Wirth, Old School, 2007, another example exhibited
New York, The Museum of Modern Art; Chicago, The Art Institute of Chicago; and San Fransisco, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Jeff Wall, 2007-08, p. 147, illustrated in colour
Thierry de Duve, et al., Jeff Wall The Complete Edition, London 2009, p. 189, illustration of another example in colour
Francesco Bonami, Jeff Wall: Actuality, Milan 2013, p. 51, illustration of another example in colour
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Famously, Wall happened upon the idea for his backlit photographs having seen an illuminated advert at a bus stop. As the artist recalls, “I just kept seeing these things at the bus terminals 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” (Jeff Wall quoted in: Craig Burnett, Jeff Wall, London 2005, p. 9). Although Wall’s technique arose from the simple concept of an illuminated advertisement, the idea itself deals with notions that are much more complex than simple imitation. Indeed, the artist has readily admitted that works such as A woman consulting a catalogue, are the complex outcome of meticulous planning and days of rehearsals, as though shooting a scene from a Hollywood film.
At first glance A woman consulting a catalogue appears as though a chance encounter with a client perusing a sale catalogue in an auction house, on closer inspection, however, this work slowly reveals a dense field of semiotic signs. For example, the conveniently placed black cab seen through the window immediately locates the scene in London, the bustling traffic outside providing a stark contrast with the relative calm of the reading room. As the artist describes: “[I]...make photographs that put documentary photography’s factual claim in suspension, while still creating an involvement with factuality for the viewer. I [try] to do this in part through emphasising the relations photography has with other picture making arts, mainly painting and cinema, in which the factual claim has always been played with in a subtle, learned and sophisticated way” (Jeff Wall quoted in: Theodora Vischer and Heidi Naef, Eds., Jeff Wall: Catalogue Raisonné, 1978-2004, Basel 2005, n.p.). Although the two realities in A woman consulting a catalogue operate on separate planes they are intimately connected; the work points to a consideration of the way these lines of connection operate, how their interdependency and their tension condition our experience of art and, as Wall’s most important works do, the larger social world.