Henry Wessel, Jr. - PHOTOGRAPHS London Tuesday, November 2, 2010 | Phillips
  • Provenance

    Private Collection, Europe

  • Literature

    Henry Wessel, exh. cat., Rena Bransten Gallery, San Francisco, 2000

  • Catalogue Essay

    Titles include: Pasadena, Los Angeles, 1974; San Francisco, 1974; Santa Monica, California, 1989; Las Vegas, 1973; Nevada, 1975; Santa Barbara, California, 1977; Waikiki, 1978; Oklahoma, 1975; Albuquerque, New Mexico, 1968; Buena Vista, Colorado, 1973; California, 1973; Tuscon, Arizona, 1974; Southern California, 1985; Walapai, Arizona, 1971; Tucson, Arizona, 1976
    Even though he comes from the East coast of the United States, we usually associate Henry Wessle with the distinctive climate and architecture of California. A transforming moment in his career came when he moved from Rochester, New York during the midwinter of 1970 to San Francisco, where they were still experiencing uninterrupted sunshine! Whether he is working in California, or Hawaii or hanging out in the Southwest (Wessel's photograph of the letters 'ICE' in the midst of a desert epitomizes the present lot - the title of the portfolio is, appropriately, ICONS and contains images as resonant as any painted by Ed Ruscha, another artist whose subject matter is founded on the love of letterforms), what we come to understand of his photographs is their preoccupation with light - "Chances are, if you believe the light," Wessel has said, "you are going to believe that things photographed existed in a world." He moves back and forth between the east and the west coasts, and has extracted some of his richest subject matter from Los Angeles where there is, according to him, a greater "physicality of light."
    The other crucial part of his work is the imagery of the urban or suburban environment - people sitting, standing, reclining in public spaces, some sculpture-like without the ceremony, others isolated and aimless, and empty phone booths or abandoned objects with their own ambiguity and dignity. There can also be an uncomfortable edge to these images of what was or could have been, but still there is always a charm which is like an 'amuse bouche', initially pleasant then developing into something surprisingly superb and full of depth. These quiet, mannered images build their effect upon the viewer through their smooth composites and graphic unity with an easy mildness which satisfies and lingers.
    In 1971, Wessel received a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation fellowship and in 1973 his photographs were exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Wessel's work was also included in 'New Topographics: Photographs of a Man-Altered Landscape' at the International Museum of Photography in Rochester, New York in 1975. Wessel's photographs are held in the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago; Centre for Creative Photography, University of Arizona, Tucson; Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.


Icons Portfolio

Cologne: Galerie Thomas Zander, 2007. Fifteen gelatin silver prints, printed 2007.
Each 17.8 x 26.7 cm (7 x 10 1/2 in) or the reverse.
Each signed, titled, dated and numbered 1/5 in pencil on the verso. Colophon. Title page. Plate list. Contained in a linen clamshell case with embossed credit and title. One from an edition of 5 plus 2 artist's proofs.

£45,000 - 55,000 

Sold for £44,450


3 November 2010