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0px; text-indent: 36.0px; font: 12.0px ‘Times New Roman’; color: #000000; -webkit-text-stroke: #000000} span.s1 {font-kerning: none} Michael Newman in his essay, “Towards the Reinvigoration of the ‘Western Tableau’: Some Notes on Jeff Wall and Duchamp (2007)”, asserts that Marcel Duchamp’s works have a significant impact on Jeff Wall’s large-scale cinematographic lightbox transparencies. By contrast, Wall’s works are frequently recognized to refer to his engagement with Manet, particularly A Bar at the Folies-Bergère (1882).

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In his early stage of career, Wall saw Duchamp’s installation work Etant donnés (1946) at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in the winter of 1973. During that time, he also saw the Manual of Instructions provided by Duchamp for the installation of the work. It contained photographs which indicated how the set could be built for a particular view.

The Etant donnés and the Manual of Instructions, as well as a great reference, The Death of Sardanapalus (1827) are remarkably considered to impact The Destroyed Room (1978), which is believed to be Wall’s first cinematographic photograph. Since Duchamp’s works are usually referred to be an important source of Conceptual art, for Wall he provides the model for ‘constructing a picture or tableau that will prompt in the viewer a spectatorship that is both engaged – to the point of embarrassment indeed – and reflective, much like the attitude of the theatre audience proposed by Brecht’. Duchamp’s works also make Wall exit Conceptualism and develop his now familiar tableau transparencies in the late 1970s.

Because of this, Wall appears apart from other artists such as Richard Prince and Sherrie Levine through the period of the late 1970s and early 1980s. They returned to the image through the reproduced photograph as a Duchampian readymade. Other references to Duchamp in Wall’s work are discussed, such as Double Self-Portrait (1992), which emphasizes the appearance of the doubling effect. In the end, through the discussion of Wall’s formative works between 1977 and 1980, the author addressed a question that whether the reflexive and negating manner gained from Duchamp survives in the statement of photography as a medium in Wall’s works after 1990. For Newman, Wall’s work builds a reconnection with the history of art – specifically a reinvigoration of what Wall came to call ‘the “Western” type of picture, and it is a monumentalistic type’ by continuing with the reflexivity of Conceptual art, and its engagement with the social and political aspects.

 The key work for Wall’s new role as director of cinematographic photography was not the readymades, so influential to Conceptual art, but the amplification of Etant donnés ´s recall of the attitude of seeing bodies. Duchamp’s another work, The Large Glass (1923) plays a lesser role in Newman’s account. While Duchamp’s play with the stereoscopic view of Etant donnés, it reveals the desire for vision and also feeds the eye as three-dimensionality by offering a sense of abundance to the audience. Newman’s purpose is to help readers see the connections between Wall’s works and Conceptual art and the impact of Duchamp in order to help them understand the uniqueness and daring of Wall’s works. Newman establishes a formal relationship with his audience of literary scholars interested in Conceptual art who are familiar with the work of Wall, Duchamp, and others and are intrigued by Conceptualism.

The essay seeks a new way of understanding Wall’s transparencies and his exploration. It divided Wall’s works into several time periods with different levels of impacts from Duchamp as the medium of photography, rather than a means of making pictures. The essay clarifies some confusion about the possibility of reanimating the West tableau; it offers some theories of Duchamp’s impact on Wall’s work; it launches a critique of the differentiation between the medium and means of photography; it highlights the influence of Wall’s example on the large-scale directorial photographs of a generation of artists.


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