HENRY WESSEL | Still Photographs
Opening reception: Saturday, 26 May 2018, 4pm
Introduction: Markus Weckesser, independent journalist, Mannheim
Opening hours: Tue-Fri 11-6, Sat 12-6 and by appointment
The exhibition Still Photographs offers an overview of the imagery of the acclaimed American photographer Henry Wessel, presenting a special selection of works from the 1960s to 1990. Wessel’s diverse oeuvre is shaped significantly by his interest in the American living environment, and his visual language allows for the idiosyncrasies and humor found in everyday life. In 1973 the Museum of Modern Art in New York mounted an exhibition of his work, and only two years later his rigorous depictions of urban settings were included in the milestone group show New Topographics. Featuring works by Lewis Baltz, Robert Adams, Stephen Shore, Bernd and Hilla Becher among others, the exhibition focused on the built environment, thus challenging and expanding traditional notions of landscape and documentary photography and increasing photography’s relevance in contemporary art. Wessel became the first of the participants to receive a Guggenheim grant, for a proposal titled “The Photographic Documentation of the US Highways and the Adjacent Landscape.” He has probably become best known for the images he took during his many trips across America, and photographs like the one of the „Ice“-sign in the Arizona desert have become icons of photography. His works portray not only the desert landscapes of California and the American West, but also the beach and leisure culture, the houses and front yards of residential areas. By choosing a perspective from across the street or from the window of his car in many of his pictures, Wessel brings the landscape down to an encounter, an extract from the flux of time, and establishes a relationship between himself and his subject. The artist was born 1942 in New Jersey and since he escaped a gray winter to move to California in the late 1960s, the bright, sharp light has been a physical presence in his work, particularly in his hand-printed black and white photographs. Henry Wessel was awarded two Guggenheim Fellowships and three National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships and grants. His works are collected by major international institutions including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Modern Art, Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles, and the Victoria and Albert Museum.