I have always been a fan of Richard Misrach. His Desert Cantos series is one of the pinnacles of contemporary photography, and it is work that will last. He is not afraid of beauty, which makes him a suspicious entity in some circles. He brings the strands of minimalism, formal landscape, conceptual art and documentary work into a coherent artistic stance.
I only saw a portion of the beach show, as it wasn't to open until the next day, but the work I did see just sings, loudly. These are huge prints, technically stunning, and haunting in their aerial God-view of figures in a vast space of sand and water. This is Large Work (9 feet wide, some of them) that works. They are photographs that won't translate to the printed page, which brings up all those issues as to whether photography is a reproducible medium or one in which the photograph as object is the point. With Misrach, the judgment is clear—you have to go stand in front of one of these and be amazed.
Now then. Jeff Wall has been an art world darling for a long time. Six months ago he was the subject of back to back profiles in The New York Times Magazine and The New Yorker. His star has never been more ascendent.
It helps to have read about this guy before you see the work. Maybe have an advanced degree in Artspeak (where, for example, you learn to compose prose such as that inanimate objects engage in Dialog, and Things are Informed by something or other). Then you can comprehend that these photographs are made to Mean Something. There is a Big Concept behind them. There is Great Intention. What is absent, however, is any heart. If you read about this guy's working methods, it is evidently the output of an obsessive compulsive narcissist, who will put his subjects through grueling take after take, and spend years constructing a set so that it doesn't appear that it was set up. There are interesting formal compositional elements in the work, there are Ideas, but there is no connection. I left the exhibit feeling as though I had been fleeced. This work will be forgotten, and none too soon.