Among the most important living photographers of our time, Jeff Wall has been making photographs for more than thirty years. He is best known for his large-scale transparencies mounted on light boxes. Influenced by the history of Western painting as well as the histories of photography, Conceptualism, and cinema, Wall’s iconic images have helped firmly establish and elevate a new photography in contemporary art.
The massive scale of Boys cutting through a hedge, Vancouver is characteristic of Wall’s aesthetic. His images are life size, or nearly life size, and the viewer confronts the images as if witnessing the objects or acts depicted in real time. This photograph, lit from behind, is essentially a light box, adding to its presence and allowing for an immediacy that reinforces this choice of scale. This large scale at once refers to the vocabulary of Old Master paintings and contemporary billboard advertising.
Wall is known for intricately orchestrating the scenes he photographs, but he also preserves an interest in taking images from life, often recreating scenes he has witnessed. In Boys cutting through a hedge, Vancouver, you see a mix of these two sensibilities; there is a “snapshot” quality to an image that is contrived. Working in a documentary-type mode, Wall staged this scene and carefully controlled the image of two people hopping a fence. This collision of the unexpected with the mundane adds a surreal quality. We, as viewers, are witnessing a situation of which we cannot be quite sure; the hint at a narrative is left undeveloped, leaving room for our own interpretation.
Label from DECADE: Contemporary Collecting 2002–2012, August 21, 2012–January 6, 2013