Is Art Trash? or Is It ‘Trash Art’

The Destroyed Room (1978) by Jeff Wall. Transparency in light-box 159 cm x 234 cm. (Collection  of the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa)

Canadian photographic artist Jeffrey “Jeff” Wall, was born in Vancouver on September 29, 1946. He is best known for his large-scale back-lit cibachrome photographs and art history writing. Wall has been a key figure in Vancouver’s art scene since the early 1970s. He attained an MA from the University of British Columbia (UBC) in 1970. Wall then became Assistant Professor at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design (1974-1975), Associate Professor at Simon Fraser University (1976-1987) and taught for many years at the UBC and lectured at the European Graduate School.

Wall, a member of the Photo Conceptualism Movement, experimented with conceptual art while an undergraduate at UBC. He then made no art until 1977, when he produced his first back-lit photo-transparencies.

  • Presenting his first gallery exhibition in 1978 as an “installation” rather than as a photography show, Wall placed The Destroyed Room in the storefront window of the Nova Gallery, enclosing it in a plasterboard wall.
  • The Destroyed Room is a staged scene of destruction in the bedroom of a young woman in which only the lithe figurine on the bureau and one black stiletto-heeled shoe remain standing. The discarded objects are the debris of commodities that promise personal beauty, but are subject to constant changes in style and planned obsolescence.
  • Sonic Youth’s compilation album The Destroyed Room: B-Sides and Rarities uses Wall’s 1978 The Destroyed Room.

Since the early 1990s, Wall has used digital technology to create montages of different individual negatives, blending them into what appears as a single unified photograph. His signature works are large transparencies mounted on light boxes. He says he conceived this format when he saw back-lit advertisements at bus stops during a trip between Spain and London. In 1995, Wall began making traditional silver gelatin black and white photographs, and these have become an increasingly significant part of his work.

  • The Destroyed Room could also be called a ‘Trashed Room’ and as a piece of art, I guess you could describe it as ‘Trash Art’.

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1 Response to Is Art Trash? or Is It ‘Trash Art’

  1. phil allen says:

    Art, hell. Every room- and house-mate I’ve had could do this in his sleep. What truly amazed me was how they could, if pressed, clean and order everything, only to have all return to a random state is short order ..

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