Engendering a Counter-Tradition: Jeff Wall, Photo-conceptualism, and the Sexual Politics of the Defeatured Landscape
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This dissertation analyses the work of photographer Jeff Wall between the years of 1970 and 1979 in order to argue that the counter tradition he helped develop with other photo-conceptual artists in the Canadian city of Vancouver has included a gendered bifurcation of space since its earliest incarnation in 1970 as the"defeatured landscape." By analyzing the existence of eroticized images of women within the defeatured landscapes of Wall and his peers, the Vancouver counter-tradition of large-scale photography is shown to depend in part on the old modern trope of woman-as-nature. Rather than simply considering space as a particular place, space is considered here an active field that includes the control of art-historical discourse, and the conscious opposition towards the historical position once held in the Vancouver art community by an older generation of landscape artists, most notably Emily Carr. Furthermore, I show that during this time frame (1970-1979) the control of art-historical discourse involved adapting to and negotiating new constraints placed on figurative art by a burgeoning feminist consciousness. This study shows that the negotiation of gender relations appears as an important, but hitherto unexamined factor to be considered in the photo-conceptual artists successful bid for the vanguard in Vancouver during the decade of the 1970s.