Ian Wallace: A Literature of Images

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Witte de With, the Kunsthalle Zürich and the Kunstverein für die Rheinlande und Westfalen (Düsseldorf) are proud to present the catalogue Ian Wallace: A Literature of Images, published to accompany their unique trilogy of exhibitions:Ian Wallace curated by Vanessa Joan Müller at the Kunstverein für die Rheinlande und Westfalen, Düsseldorf, 19 October 2008 to 11 January 2009;Ian Wallace: A Literature of Images curated by Renske Janssen and Nicolaus Schafhausen at Witte de With, Center for Contemporary Art in Rotterdam, 8 November 2008 to 8 February 2008; Ian Wallace: A Literature of Images curated by Beatrix Ruf at the Kunsthalle Zürich, 15 November 2008 to 11 January 2009.

Ian Wallace inhabits an artistic milieu in Vancouver that is recognized internationally for its pictorial and theoretical rigor. He has developed a pictorial idiom that unites monochrome painting and documentary photography so as to test the communicative and ideological limits of imagery.

The essays commissioned for the book draw out the complexities of Wallace’s practice with an eye to their broad implications in contemporary and historical art, philosophy and culture.

Dieter Roelstraete pays particular attention to the often-conflicting sites of studio and street that recur in Wallace’s work, rethinking the oft-cited melancholia of the work as a particular type of pleasure.
Vanessa Joan Müller draws on historical examples to situate Wallace’s pictures in a vanguard modernist legacy, which confronts endgames with plurality. In the process, she recognizes a fellow art historian who is able to elicit decisive moments in the modern transformation of pictorial art.

And Jacques Rancière reads Wallace’s images alongside the specific materiality of Mallarmé’s poetics – a key inspiration for Wallace – as well as the artist’s cinematic sources, to find a particular intelligibility or willful mis-readings of the “ruling order that structures our world.”

To fulfill its role as an encounter with the work and thought of Ian Wallace, the catalogue also features the artist’s own voice in two distinct ways: a candid interview between Wallace and curator Renske Janssen, who attends to the full trajectory of his artistic development, from his early days as a student in the 1960s to his speculations about what he might turn to next; and an abridged version of his 1992 essay “Photography and the Monochrome”, which is perhaps the most concise statement of his art as a means to formulate questions about the world. Here the images emerge not as mirrors of reality, nor as projections of ideality, but as building blocks of consciousness.

Extensively illustrated, with close to all the works featured in the three exhibitions, and beautifully designed by the team of Surface (Frankfurt/Berlin), this unique volume extends the ambition of the three exhibitions, the most extensive European presentation of Wallace’s work, by offering the most comprehensive presentation of Ian Wallace’s work to date.


Edited by
Monika Szewczyk, in collaboration with the exhibitions’ curators.

Renske Janssen, Vanessa Joan Müller, Jacques Rancière, Dieter Roelstraete, Beatrix Ruf, Nicolaus Schafhausen, Monika Szewczyk, Ian Wallace.

Surface Frankfurt/Berlin, Markus Weisbeck, Isabelle Brombach, Max Nestor

Translations into English
Tim Connell, Nicolas Vieillescazes

Additional translations for German insert
NANSEN, Suzanne Schmidt, Nikolaus G. Schneider

113 b&w and color images – Stefan Altenburger Photography, Zürich; Bob Goedewaagen, Rotterdam; Achim Kukulies, Düsseldorf 2008; Trevor Mills, Vancouver Art Gallery; Tomas Svab, Vancouver Art Gallery; Robert Keziere; Courtesy Galerie Greta Meert; Courtesy JRP Ringier; Courtesy the artist


Kunsthalle Zürich; Kunstverein für die Rheinlande und Westfalen, Düsseldorf; Witte de With Publishers,
Rotterdam in collaboration with Sternberg Press, Berlin / New York

Special thanks for additional funding to
The Canadian Embassy in Germany, Canada Council for the Arts, Deutsche Bank Stiftung, Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada, SNS Reaal Fonds, Stiftung Art Progressive; Stichting Bevordering van Volkskracht; Catriona Jeffries Gallery, Vancouver; Galerie Greta Meert, Brussels; Hauser & Wirth, Zürich/London; Yvon Lambert, Paris/New York;

Via Sternberg Press