… What remains is the pure presence of the suggestion inserted in the faces, initiated by the play of light from the invisible source.
This is from Laszlo Glozer’s essay ‘In the reflection of the neon light: Jeff Wall’s Movie Audience revisited’ found in Jeff Wall: Transit (2010):
… The standard incompatibility between cinema audience and individual portrait is evident and by no means negated; it does, however, conjure the senses all the more, thematically and formally, in a totalistic “illusionism” that is thoroughly, meticulously stages and approaching perfection — without arriving at a really satisfying equilibrium. An irritation remains, effectively, and the decisive role here is played by the magical point (of focus) beyond the total installation.
Photographic material constitutes the medial core of such unerringly effective, irritating fakery. With this base material, the artist’s execution is certainly cogent. Seeing it on site, the original image — in Movie Audience, we’re dealing with seven individual photographs assembled together — is amplified to maximum photorealistic effect by means of the technical set-up of the transparency light box. It is almost superfluous to mention that we are dealing here with a model developed and optimized for advertising, one that would soon become a standard medium deployed globally. But its transfer into the arts sector — refined, and rendered specific — is precisely Jeff Wall’s stroke of genius.
It is above all this optical loudspeaker that lends the staged photographs the effect their exhibition deserves. This light, switched on, separates Wall’s works — usually through-composed like panel painting — from the traditional galleries, catapulting them from the wall and into the room, making them into a different kind of panel image insofar as the artificial mixture of light streaming out from the pictorial object psychophysically incorporates the observer into its illusion-creating sphere of influence.
[ … ]
… fortunately, the work stands for itself, even without its theory. If the calculation with the only ostensibly anonymous portraits doesn’t really add up to “the image of the mass as subject of history,” so much the better. What remains is the pure presence of the suggestion inserted in the faces, initiated by the play of light from the invisible source.
From elsewhere in the same book, this is Wall speaking in an interview:
… It’s important to keep in mind that what you do means nothing or less than nothing to most people, including those interested in art. Most people don’t think you’re any good, and that’s the case for the best artists.