On the surface – Grit of fact, Allure of fiction

What a wonderful way to consider the potential surface of a photograph:

“… the grit of fact and the allure of fiction.”

See (and hear) more about Jeff Wall and his work here at SFMOMA
And this photo of the Barcelona Pavilion –

Morning Cleaning – Jeff Wall

Mr. Wall calculated his double intentions and the interests of his photograph in a very eloquent and revealing way:

“…cleaning is mysterious, since it is a labor that erases itself if it is successful.” – Jeff Wall.

The pavilion – the “site” of Walls photograph above – is itself a reproduction of the original pavilion designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe as the German National Pavilion for the 1929 Barcelona International Exhibition.

It is interesting to consider Wall’s photographic work in the context of one of the most influential objects of “modern” architecture – the Mies pavilion “original” only existed relatively briefly – about a year actually, but what became of that brief existence is an overwhelming influence upon a “modern” architecture. Work began in 1983 and the new building was opened on its original site in 1986 completely re-assembled and reconstituted. A “complete” replication of the original. Explore more about the pavilion here.

Reflection of Alba (Dawn) by Georg Kolbe
35 mm slide from a 1990 – a visit to the pavilion
Matt Niebuhr


"Putting where it needs to be." – Richard Serra

Richard Serra has a vision – spoken with confidence. It’s about knowing what you want and how you want it – then attending to it – realizing it takes many to accomplish such a feat and that process can be informative.

I had a chance to see Richard Serra’s work at the Olympic Sculpture Park – in Seattle, Washington, impressive as expected, in size, scale and in sensuous shape. I thought the skin was particularly nice. The park-like siting of the work allows for an overview which helps the forms to be absorbed in the mind’s eye as objects – but barely holding their own against a looming corporate backdrop.


The real power seems to me to be in walking next to and around – where you become more acutely aware of scale, surface, and shape. It didn’t hurt either to be visiting on a warm sunny spring day. That’s where the phenomenon of experience comes into play – being able to be next to something – to touch it.

The shapes nicely echoed in the passing freight ships out in the bay. But the irony of the fact that the institute actually posted a sign “please do not touch the art” seemed profane in an already profane space – trying hard to not be so.

Why must we place such imaginary boundaries upon these things ?

The park design is very nicely done as well. – It creates a section of land that I can only imagine is / was under intense scrutiny to be “developed” as evidenced by the surrounding dense and unfortunate condo development – it was interesting to see the impending invasion and architecture, art, and landscape – respond –

(design statement here) assuming a bit of a visual shield to the visual cacophony –

It brings home to me a sense of pressure about how we choose to shape our environment or be shaped by our environment.