New York Photo Review
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Making Caribbean Dance by Susanna Sloat
The Genetic Wars by Barbara Confino
Soho Photo Gallery
Central Booking Magazine

Back in the Day
Henry Wessel
Vintage Photographs
Untitled, 1982 by Henry Wessel. Source: pacemacgill.com
Henry Wessel, "Untitled, 1982"

I’d never heard of Henry Wessel before and if I hadn’t seen the name of his mentor, Gary Winogrand, alongside his, I probably wouldn’t have been that interested in his new exhibition at Pace Mac/Gill. Despite the association, Wessel has clearly managed to develop his own vision and style. Best known for his photographs of the American West–not majestic mountains or dramatic landscapes–but more mundane subjects like suburban real estate, parking lots and empty highways, the best of Wessel’s photographs combine his dry wit and roving eye with his appreciation of the unique quality of Western light.

The trouble is that quite a few of the 30 black and white images in this exhibition demand your full attention–you have to look hard to discover Wessel’s intentions and even then they may leave you in the dark. For example, there are two straight on pictures of houses titled El Cerrito, California that could pass for real estate ads. Is that all there is? Is he telling us what life is like there? At least in another image of a house in Venice, California, taken 11 years earlier in 1973,

Wessel captures a man sitting on the outside steps drinking a beer. Okay, so it’s lonely out there. The earliest work in this exhibition is from 1968 and is entitled “Pennsylvania”—a photo of an empty road seemingly taken from a car window.

Berkeley, California, 1971 by Henry Wessel. Source: pacemacgill.com
Henry Wessel, "Berkeley, California, 1971"

Other images stand out and that’s when you perceive the Winogrand influence. It’s hard not to smile when you see what is probably a naked woman lying in bed covering half her face with a drinking glass; a striped sheet draped over her torso clashes with the patterned one she’s lying on. A garish flowered window curtain behind her and an equally indescribable wall hanging completes the picture. The image entitled Malapai, Arizona shows a desert with a small sign in the middle that says simply “ice.” Another one I liked was “Nevada”—a man peers around the corner of a house and all that’s visible in the distance is desert. Perhaps Wessel is saying to us It only looks like we’re somewhere, we’re really nowhere.

There are a few other surprises here, some better than others. For Wessel newbies and Winogrand fans, it’s worth taking a closer look.

Henry Wessel
Vintage Photographs


Pace/Macgill
32 E 57th St. 9th Fl
Midtown         Map

212 759 7999
pacemacgill.com

Thursday, April 21 to
Friday, July 8, 2011
Hours: Summer Hours: Mon-Thur, 9:30-5:30
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The Genetic Wars by Barbara Confino
Making Caribbean Dance by Susanna Sloat
Central Booking Magazine
Soho Photo Gallery