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Henry Wessel: Waikiki Hardcover – July 20, 2011
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- Corey Keller
Waikiki, one of Honolulu's most famous neighbourhoods, had already become a crowded tourist destination when Wessel photographed there in the late seventies and early eighties. This book contains Wessel's edit of these pictures and is a record of American leisure at this time: of surf, sand and inexhaustible pleasure seekers. Yet Wessel equally explores the contradictions of Waikiki - concrete hotels invading pristine beaches, culture encroaching on nature. Despite all the fun in the sun, Wessel's subjects are often distanced and dissatisfied, suggesting an underlying unease.
Wessel's Waikiki pictures show another side of paradise - one where the sun's aggressive physical presence scorches civility; where the lukewarm sea rather than refreshes, bastes and tosses swimmers with dispassion, and where the pressure to enjoy precious leisure time leaves tourists squinting, scowling, or staring instead of smiling, their body language reflecting grim resolve and a determination to endure the fun. Wessel records the struggle - the dream remains but paradise has been bleached to the bone.
Born in New Jersey in 1942, Henry Wessel has been honored with two Guggenheim grants and three fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts. His photographs are included in the permanent collections of the major American, European, and Asian museums. His work has been frequently and widely exhibited, including solo exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles.