San Francisco

Henry Wessel

Fraenkel Gallery

Everything in a photograph by Henry Wessel sits tonally clear and smooth across the sheet so that whatever seems to be the main subject––a sunbather, a suburban house or solitary tree––stands as just the pretext for seeing all else that is simply, and absurdly, there. By dint of being centered in the frame, the subject, like the unitary camera eye, ushers in a set of transforming binocular aftershocks. Wessel’s black and white images are head-on but his comic conceptions reveal themselves obliquely; he lets both his and our attention wander enough to discover the multiplicity in any range of facts.

In Richmond, California, 1989, the frontal view of a two-story cottage looks normal enough to be mounted in a realtor’s window, except that every inch of architecture and shrubbery has something uncanny or patently wrong about it. The nutty, smaller-than-life cottage, pitched against one of

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