Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Celebrating the Views That Others Looked Past


SAN FRANCISCO — In its quiet way, the Henry Wessel show here at the Museum of Modern Art is a revelation, one of the season’s sleepers.

For the last 30 years or so, Mr. Wessel has been photographing the American West. Not the mountains and redwoods, but the parking lots, body builders, nude beaches and absurdly trimmed shrubbery. And the light.

He is having his moment. There have been shows lately at the Robert Mann and Charles Cowles galleries in New York. The exhibition here has about 80 mostly black-and-white prints that cover his whole career, one whose arc may make you scratch your head yet again at how distracted and fickle the art world can sometimes be.

He’s a photographer’s photographer. Born in 1942, he grew up in suburban New Jersey, then studied psychology at Penn State, borrowing a Leica one day from his girlfriend’s brother. “It really knocked me out,” he has recalled. “I had never really seen how a camera could describe something."


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