Henry Wessel

January 10 — February 10, 2007

Henry Wessel has worked as a photographer for nearly thirty years. He first garnered widespread critical attention during the early 1970s in an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, and as one of the young photographers included in the New Topographics exhibition at the International Museum of Photography in Rochester, New York. Since then, Wessel has documented his surroundings, finding a sense of lyrical beauty in the everyday. His "keen-eyed observations share the spontaneity and honesty of snapshots, but are inflected with his own wry humor." (Sandra Sloan, The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art) Robert Mann Gallery will exhibit two series by the artist: California and the West and Night Walk. Additional works from throughout the artist's career will also be on display.

This exhibition is presented in partnership with Charles Cowles Gallery, where a complimentary Henry Wessel exhibition will be on view from January 11 to February 17, 2007. Also exhibiting Henry Wessel in 2007 are the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Rena Bransten Gallery and Theresa Luisotti Gallery.

Henry Wessel was born in 1942 in Teaneck, New Jersey. He received a B.A. degree from Pennsylvania State University in 1966 and an M.F.A. degree from the State University of New York at Buffalo in 1972. In 1971 he was awarded the first of two John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowships, and he has also received three National Endowment for the Arts grants. Wessel's photographs are included in many major collections, including the Art Institute of Chicago; the Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona, Tucson; Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, Cambridge; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; and Victoria and Albert Museum, London. Currently, Wessel is on faculty in the photography department at the San Francisco Art Institute.

The New Yorker
February 5, 2007

These two shows, timed to coincide with a retrospective at the San Francisco MOMA, should help reestablish Wessel in the mainstream of photographic history for the tough, witty, but often overlooked work he began making in the late nineteen-sixties. His stark black-and-white images of the ordinary American landscape, many of them from California and other points west, touch on the emptiness of pop culture as well as its iconic appeal. The best pictures will remind you of Walker Evans, Lee Friedlander, and Ed Ruscha, and they're as bluntly matter-of-fact as they are sly. At Cowles, some recent color photos of Las Vegas tend to go over the top, Martin Parr-style, but otherwise Wessel is a model of restraint, the coolest of the cool.