A few quotes from A Window into Wall:
"Inevitably, each show emphasizes a different aspect of this wide-ranging artist. There's Wall, the omnivorous gourmand of painting's history, transmuting the traditions of past centuries into his elaborately staged colour transparencies, or Wall, the disciple of photography's greats (Walker Evans, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy), a taker of well-riven pictures.
There's Wall, the maker of frozen cinema, orchestrating his elaborate narrative visions with the epic ambition of a Hollywood director, or Wall, the diagnostician of the body politic, constructing from the phantoms of his own lived urban experience those moments of disruption in works that he calls “near documentary.”
But there is also Wall, the deep diver of the unconscious, creator of dream-like, digitally concocted images such as The ventriloquist at a birthday party in October 1947, in which a woman (a mother or a hired performer?) presents a nightmarish talking puppet to a roomful of attentive, well-scrubbed youngsters. (One boy backs up against the wall, his face a study in frozen consternation, a stand-in, perhaps, for the artist as detached spectator.)
And there's Wall, the theoretician, concocting Picture for Women (1979), his now famous feminist-influenced riposte to Manet's A Bar at the Folies-Bergères. (He rejigged the players in order to place the gazing woman in the masterly role of overseer.)
Finally, there's Wall, the Vancouverite, an interpretation he roundly repudiates in conversation, but which one observes in his piercingly insightful scenarios of the city encroached on by wilderness, a unique and vivid characteristic of urban life on Canada's West Coast...
Wall has become impatient over the years with the way critics perpetually situate his work in relation to his French 19th-century sources – particularly Manet...
Still, I had to admit, Degas's painting The Dance Lesson (c. 1874) seemed like a natural point of reference... The work of the factory is thus conflated with the sweaty toil of the ballerinas, who itch their backs and adjust their slippers, enervated by the gruelling routine.
Modern life was compressed by Degas into a dense package, rife with meaning, the industry of leisure deftly positioned within the diverse economies of the city. Different aspects of urban life were brought into violent collision in a way the ailing man at the MoMA might well have appreciated."