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FEBRUARY 20-MAY 11
It’s dangerous to examine art in reproduction, but once accustomed to the myriad ways photos lie about objects, most serious viewers feel comfortable making rudimentary judgments without access to originals. To paraphrase a character from Kurt Vonnegut’s Bluebeard, look at a million art books and you can never be wrong. Still, I’ve probably been fooled more by Jeff Wall than any other artist. Flip casually past the right Wall in a magazine and you can’t be sure if you’ve seen an advertisement, a movie still (documentary or fictional?), a photorealist painting, an installation view, or some particularly artful photojournalism. That’s because the Vancouver artist is interested in how photos lie about things other than objects, including cinema, other photos, and everything else. He has also discovered an aptly slippery medium in the large-scale light-boxed transparency. L.A.’s Museum of Contemporary Art organized this retrospective containing roughly 30 works (accompanied by an impressive Scalo catalog whose repros actually do them justice), but the Hirshhorn gets it first. Throughout his career, Wall has continued to discover what happens to the vitality of accident when it gains permanence via artifice, as he catalogs what flourishes and what is stamped out when we endeavor to make life lifelike. Viewers will be able to distinguish between “Jeff Wall” and Jeff Wall when the artist conducts a tour of his retrospective with Hirshhorn curator Olga Viso at 11 a.m. Feb. 20 at the Hirshhorn Museum & Sculpture Garden, 7th & Independence Ave. SW. FREE. (202) 357-2700. (Glenn Dixon)