Jeff Wall: Artists need material limitations
Jeff Wall: After “Invisible Man” by Ralph Ellison, the Preface, (1999-2001)
First shown at Documenta 11, After “Invisible Man” by Ralph Ellison, the Preface, (1999-2001), represents a well-known scene from Ellison’s classic novel. Wall’s version shows us the cellar room, “warm and full of light” in which Ellison’s narrator lives, complete with its 1,369 lightbulbs. Energy and light, stolen from the electric company, illuminate not only the character’s basement dwelling, but also the truth of his existence. He tells us, “Light confirms my reality, gives birth to my form…. Without light I am not only invisible but formless as well; and to be unaware of one’s form is to live a death…. The truth is the light and light is the truth.”
As stated in the beginning, I find that even without knowing the foundation of this work, the work in itself is breathtaking.
The work of the Canadian photographer Jeff Wall consists primarily of large-scale color transparencies mounted in light boxes and, since 1995, black-and-white photographs. His pictures resemble both paintings and film stills, drawing the viewer into highly specific scenes that imply larger narratives.
He is presenting his own work in an excellent way in this video: