Ian Wallace – In the Museum, APRIL 10–MAY 22, 2021

Ian Wallace
In the Museum
April 10–May 22, 2021

Catriona Jeffries

In the Museum is Ian Wallace’s first exhibition to focus exclusively on the museum as a conceptual and formal site of research and production, a subject he has been engaged with since 1984. The works here were produced between 1990­ and 2015, most of which are being exhibited for the first time, and feature photographs of historical paintings of subjective influence and desire—images from museums and institutions throughout Europe and North America. These works continue his poignant articulation of the multi-faceted, continually changing space between the ideologies of the museum, and the ideologies of the viewer—encouraging reflection on the subjective viewing perspective and the institutional and architectural framing of the museum itself.

In the painting’s photographic elements, Wallace centers the camera on the “empty” white space of the museum wall, specifically between the painting and its museological wall label, cropping both the label and the painting itself in the frame. These works expand on the idea of the support/surface of an artwork, both in the real world of the exhibition space and the photographically represented. The colour and texture of the photographic print when laminated to the painted canvas, the texture and colour of the museum wall paint, the painting’s label and frame, the reflections of the museum in the protective glass, the lighting and shadows of the artwork and label as objects—all become formal elements in the final work. These very real objective details both contrast and formally integrate within the repeating yet unique compositions of non-objective monochromatic painted abstractions.

As one of the first artists to create large scaled photographs positioning photography as a principal medium for pictorial art within a museum, Wallace’s work has often utilized the wall itself as a formal surface structure in relation to the installation of the photographs and painting themselves, acknowledging and engaging the exhibition architecture obliquely in their placement. As Wallace has stated, “I compare the white wall of the exhibition space to the blank white page and my pictures as signs to be read in almost a literary sense.”

In this exhibition, we can see the “white” of a museum wall when photographed and printed is much different than the white of the paint on the painting it is documenting. This is also then different again from the white paint on the work itself, which again differs from the white of the wall of the current exhibition space, which will continue to change according to its future context. By revealing discrepancies in hue and tone, the works upset the assumed neutrality of such display conventions. The perceptual awareness of viewing artwork and its context is explicitly highlighted in these works; our mental and visual senses are asked to be expanded and attune, as Wallace has suggested, to the “hieroglyphics of Modernity.”

Documentation by Rachel Topham Photography