November 1, 2013 6:44 pm

Snapshot: ‘Outburst’, by Jeff Wall (1989)

Canadian-born artist Jeff Wall’s back-lit photographs of carefully staged scenes borrows compositional style from the old masters

In the late 1970s the Canadian-born artist Jeff Wall studied at London’s Courtauld Institute. Inspired by the writings of Baudelaire, he wanted to find a new way of picturing modern life. From a bus, he noticed a backlit advert. “It was not photography, it was not cinema, it was not painting ... It seemed to be the technique in which this problem could be expressed,” Walls said later. He began producing back-lit photographs of carefully staged scenes, borrowing compositional style from the old masters. In “Outburst”, exploitation is the uneasy subject, a man in a cramped garment factory gesturing, martial-arts style, at an employee. An exhibition of Wall’s work (see slideshow below) is at Munich’s Pinakothek der Moderne from November 7, with a catalogue published by Schirmer/Mosel.

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