Saturday, March 22, 2014

Wesselmann, Tom

Still Life #30
oil, enamel and synthetic polymer paint on composition board with collage of printed advertisements, plastic flowers, refrigerator door, plastic replicas of 7-Up bottles, glazed and framed color reproduction, and stamped metal
122 x 167.5 x 10 cm
Museum of Modern Art (MOMA), New York, NY, USA
-Fair use-

"I'd never painted anything before. I was quite content to take other people's work since I didn't care anyway about the subject matter. I approached subject matter as a scoundrel. I had nothing to say about it whatsoever. I only wanted to make these exciting paintings." (Wesselmann)

Tom Wesselmann (1931-2004), born in Cincinnati, OH, was a central member of the Pop Art movement in America, who worked in painting, collage and sculpture.

He attended the University of Cincinnati before serving in the army from 1951 to 1954. While he was in the service, he began drawing cartoons, a hobby which he decided to pursue as a career when his two-year tour ended. After graduating from the Art Academy of Cincinnati, he was accepted into Cooper Union in New York, where he was encouraged by faculty members to pursue painting and printmaking. The powerful work of Willem de Kooning provided both inspiration and inhibition as he attempted to find a new direction centred around a tangible subject.

In the early 1960s, he began to make small collages and assemblages, which included everyday imagery from magazines, advertisements, and consumer culture.
In the late 1960s an increasingly dominant eroticism emerged in works, with its more literal but still intense colours and tight, formal composition. The pictorial elements, exaggerated in their arabesque forms and arbitrary colouring, became significantly larger in scale in his works of the 1970s. Later in the 1970s, he created cut-out compositions in aluminum, enamel, and steel. In the 1980s he returned to works for the wall with cut-out steel or aluminium drawings, which replicate his familiar, graceful line in enamel on cut-out metal. In the last two years of his life, he returned to the female nude that had become so iconic in his work. Although stylistically similar to the flattened females of his earlier series, the women in his later years appear more abstracted and playful, alluding to the famous nudes of Henri Matisse and Man Ray.

Tom Wesselmann was also an innovative printmaker, adapting his imagery to lithographs, screenprints, aquatints and multiples in relief.