Ian Wallace: A Literature of Images

Witte de With, Center for Contemporary Art is proud to present the first large scale exhibition trilogy of Vancouver-based artist Ian Wallace in Europe, in collaboration with Kunstverein für die Rheinlande und Westfalen (Düsseldorf) and Kunsthalle Zurich. Along with Jeff Wall, Rodney Graham and Ken Lum, Ian Wallace is one of the main contributors to the development of conceptual art in Vancouver, an art scene which has drawn world-wide attention since the early 1970s.

Wallace’s career began in the mid ’60s when he took up a professorship at The University of British Columbia, where Jeff Wall was among his students. He continued to teach until the late ’90s whilst simultaneously working on his art practice. Wallace is an artist with a strong interest in avant-garde strategies and has developed a picture idiom that combines monochrome painting and documentary photography. Even though his work is part of many North American museums and private collections, until now his practice has remained underexposed in Europe.

Instead of adopting the format of a chronological display, each institution takes a constellation of key works as a point of departure. Designed as a trilogy, the three institutions each present a unique exhibition thematically linked to a public program. At the Kunstverein für die Rheinlande und Westfalen, Düsseldorf, the twelve-part panorama Lookout (1979) offers a focus on considerations of the construction of imagery. In Kunsthalle Zurich, Attack on Literature (1975) will focus the inquiry on questioning poetics and the tensions between image and text.

In Witte de With, the photo-murals The Summerscript (1974), The Idea of the University (1990), Clayoquot Protest (1993) will be central next to the installation At Work (2008) in which the combination of video and photographs intensifies the artists’ self-referential research. Together the three seminal works lay bare formal relations between avant-garde painting and photography and test the communicative and ideological limits of art production. For example, The Summerscript is based on an unfinished film, which was originally intended to be a collaboration between Ian Wallace, Rodney Graham and Jeff Wall. In Clayoquot Protest, the focus is on the role of the individual within a collective action. These photo/painting images are set against the background of Canadian wilderness that protestors are trying to protect from exploitation. Finally The Idea of the University links art practice and the intellectual milieu.

Ian Wallace’s interest in the position of the art institution as a place for reflection and production of meaning is visible in the design of this intensive collaboration, initiated by Witte de With. The broadening of the international dialogue and the (art) historical depth that the project entails illustrates and emphasizes crucial aspects of Wallace’s art practice.


An extensive monograph will be jointly published by the organizing institutions and Sternberg Press Berlin/New York, edited by the curators and Monika Szewzcyk. The publication includes art historical and theoretical texts, offering key insights into Wallace’s practice as well as a candid interview with the artist. It is richly illustrated with a thorough catalogue of exhibited works and extensive bibliographic notes. Contributors include Renske Janssen, Vanessa Joan Müller, Jacques Rancière, Dieter Roelstraete, Monika Szewczyk and Ian Wallace.

4 – 8 February 2009

Daily at 5:00 p.m.
Parallel to Art Rotterdam Witte de With will host five presentations under the title The Sixties, Seventies, Eighties, Nineties & ´Now-ties´. Several speakers highlight a socio-economic and political background for Ian Wallace’s work.

The programme is a coproduction with Studium Generale of the Erasmus University Rotterdam.

With a.o.:

  • 4 Feb Maarten van Rossem
  • 5 Feb Lex Heerma van Voss
  • 6 Feb Maaike Meijer
  • 7 Feb Markus Müller
  • 8 Feb Ian Wallace

Language: Dutch/English.




Supported By

Canada Council, Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada, Hauser & Wirth, London,
Catriona Jeffries Gallery, Vancouver, Yvon Lambert, New York, Paris and London, Galerie Greta Meert, Brussels