Canadian astronaut - Page 2

Jeff Wall's hyperreal photos at SFMOMA launch the mundane into the stratosphere
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Sure, he's not above filling a grave in a Jewish cemetery with fluorescent pink sea urchins (Flooded Grave [1998–2000]), packing an entire basement ceiling with burned-out lightbulbs (After "Invisible Man" by Ralph Ellison, the Prologue [2001]), or reimagining a platoon of slaughtered Russian soldiers in Afghanistan chatting as their innards spill out (Dead Troops Talk [1992]). Those are the kinds of blockbuster photoconceptualist images that made him famous and provide instant shivers to first-time viewers.

The real metaphysics come in Wall's luminescent details, when he's in hyperreal mode. He's like a Martian poet, glossing the earthly everyday with a cosmic eeriness. In Insomnia (1994), possibly the most tweaked-out photograph ever, an empty plastic bottle of dish soap, under flickering kitchen lights, resembles a beckoning angel. A tiny octopus flopped onto a kid's school desk, in An Octopus (1990), somehow summons all the horror in the world. Filthy linoleum roils biblically under a discarded mop in Diagonal Composition No. 3 (2000). And in Sunken Area (1996), the white vinyl siding of a trashy house morphs into abstraction, its glowing lines swooning into the room. It made me dizzy, and I had to sit down. *

JEFF WALL

Through Jan. 27, 2008

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

151 Third St., SF
Mon.–Tues. and Fri.–Sun., 11 a.m.–5:45 p.m.; Thurs., 10 a.m.–8:45 p.m.; $7–<\d>$12.50 (free first Tues.)

(415) 357-4000
www.sfmoma.org

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