Canadian, born 1946
Jeff Wall (Canadian, born 1946)
Gelatin silver print
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Purchase with High Museum of Art Enhancement Fund and Capital Campaign Fund
Currently not on view
This eight-by-ten-foot black-and-white photograph is subtler and darker—both visually and emotionally—than Wall’s usual color transparencies. Night is so dark that viewers must adjust their vision, as if suddenly going from daylight into deep shadow. At first, this scene of a homeless camp in the harsh urban landscape of a concrete drainage ditch is difficult to read; the figures are barely legible and the dark pool of water in the foreground resembles a starry sky. The diminutive figures at the edge of a body of water suggest the elements of a classical landscape painting, but this depiction of homelessness is a tragic update of the pastoral theme. Night owes much of its mystery and power to its implied photographic realism. The enormous scale of the work creates an almost cinematic effect, enveloping and overwhelming the viewer and causing them to suspend disbelief, resulting in a tension between what they experience viscerally and what they know to be a carefully constructed scene.
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