Jon WesselSan Francisco, CA
My current body of work is influenced and inspired by the contemporary urban landscape (street art, billboards, graffiti abatement) as well as more traditional painting styles rooted in Abstract Expressionism. My medium incorporates found flyers and posters with acrylics and graphite. Although nonrepresentational, my work addresses issues of notoriety, time and revisionism.
My earlier body of work shows my interest in the unique qualities of different tools and media. With this series, I explored how modern technologies - scanner, computers, printing - affect the process and outcome of the work I produced and how that compared to more traditional methodologies (in this case painting on paper). My motivation was a better understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of each modality.
A painter who works with drawing and mixed media, Jon Wessel became interested in art attending a ceramics course as an undergraduate student at the University of California in Berkeley. Studying abroad in France during his junior year, he frequented the museums of Paris, sketching at the Louvre, the Rodin Museum and the Musee de L’Orangerie. When Wessel completed his degree in Psychology at Berkeley in 1978, he enrolled in drawings courses at a community college in Del Mar, California.
After working as an environmental psychologist for several years, Wessel returned to art studies. Awarded a partial scholarship, he studied from 1983-85 at the Academy of Art in San Francisco, where he was first introduced to digital art tools.
Wessel began to experiment with scanning sections of his paintings and drawings into digital format, exploring the ways that modern technologies affect the process and outcome of composition. Using Photoshop tools to introduce drawn marks into digital images, he created a series of triptychs that seamlessly integrated traditional and electronic media, broadening the expressive potential of the computer as an artistic tool. His work from this period is in the public collections of Adobe Systems and Mentor Systems in San Jose, California.
Drawn back to the tactile, organic textures of paint, graphite and collage, in 2003 Wessel returned to drawing and painting. Living and working in San Francisco, his observations of the constantly changing urban environment led him to recognize a rich material resource in the paper ads pasted on walls and fences around the city. In the mold of decollage artists like Jacques Villegle, Wessel was inspired by the random, accidental compositions formed by the archeological layers of text and imagery in these layered materials. In his series Ozymandius from 2005, he painted and drew on collages he made using the reverse sides of the torn, printed “found paper” surfaces. As with his earlier digital investigations, Wessel fused accidental surface and deliberate color application into a new form.
About his working process, Wessel has observed, “I’ve always been interested in layers—they‘re a strong visual metaphor for what’s seen and what’s hidden, the experiences you remember, and the ones you forget.”
Wessel currently lives and works in San Francisco. His work is represented in California by The Studio Shop Gallery in Burlingame, California.