Excellent colour and an engaging text make this a very good introduction to a somewhat overlooked American Pop-artist
Revisado en el Reino Unido el 26 de enero de 2014
Tom Wesselmann, 1931-2004, was an American painter, sculptor and printmaker who, realising that he could never paint as well as de Kooning, sought to find a new direction for his art and began to make small collages using torn paper and discarded materials, "Green Camp Pond", 1959, and "Portrait Collage No. 1", from later the same year, which was based on a Memling portrait.
His works increased in size and resulted in large, aggressive compositions such as the deliberately vacuous naked women of his "Great American Nudes" series, one of the reasons why he was labeled misogynystic by some critics. These and other contemporary works brought him fame and notoriety as one of the founders of American Pop art with its flashy colours and eye-catching imagery, as well as flatness, frontality and large scale.
In this book, published in 1994, Sam Hunter presents an account of Wesselmann's career up to the mid-1990s. The text is accompanied by 110 colour reproductions that present the artist's work, with its high-toned colours, faithfully. These range chronologically from the two collages of 1959 to 1993, "Still Life over House by Lake" and "Claire with Robe Half Off (Viviénne)". The reproduction on the front cover is "Big Blonde (Double Layer) (3-D)", 1993.
His style in the 1960s was ironic, parodying stereotypes of American advertising, as in his "Still Life" series, "Still Life No. 46", 1964, showing a radio and ketchup jar, and "Still Life No. 33", 1963, a large triptych featuring Pall Mall cigarettes, Budweiser beer and a hamburger. "Interior No. 4", 1964, comprises acrylic painting, collage and assemblage [including a working clock and light] whilst "Still Life No. 28", 1964, including a acrylic painting, collage and a working TV. Hunter, in a very concise and clear text, describes the artist's work very cogently.
Cigarettes feature in a later series where the lit cigarette is held between red lips, "Mouth No. 11", 1967, lies in an ashtray next to a provocatively naked woman, "Bedroom Painting No. 2", 1968, or where their relative positions are transposed, "Great American Nude No. 99", 1968. In later works, such as "Smoker No. 13", 1974, it is the drifting cigarette smoke that is contrasted with red lips and painted fingernails.
Other series of the period include "Interiors", "Faces", "Standing Paintings", "Bedroom Paintings", "Still Lifes", "Seascapes" and "Landscapes" ["Landscape No. 2", 1964, shows the front view of a VW Beetle]. Wesselmann has always been an innovator and, in 1978, he became interested in sculpture and began to combine everyday objects in ways that were both simple and provocative. This was followed in 1983 by a series of experimental handmade and fabricated productions.
Over the next two years he transposed his old imagery into fresh cut-out aluminium and laser cut steel versions. "Steel Drawing No. 1", 1983, the first of a series of six, was made by technician directed by the artist. In 1983 he `reinvented' his earlier "Bedroom Painting" series into sculptural images cut from Masonite and steel in up to life-size scale, as in "Bedroom Painting No. 60", 1983. Enamel on cut-out aluminium works were also produced, for example "Amy Reclining (Artist's Variation)", 1984-85, "Bedroom Blonde Doodle with Photo", 1985, "Still Life with Fruit, Flowers and Monica", 1986, "Monica Nude and the Purple Robe (Black Variation No. 4)", 1986, and "Beach at Easthampton (with Sky)", 1988-89.
Some of the most exciting works involve enamel painted cut-out steel that create the impression of 3-dimensional doodling, as in "Fast Sketch Still Life with Abstract Paintings", 1988, and "Sketchbook Page with Hat and Goldfish", 1978-90. "Still Life with Fuji Chrysanthemums", 1985-91, was created from alkyd oil painted cut-out steel, whilst "Bedroom Face with Lichtenstein (3-D)", 1992, was made from oil painted cut-out aluminium.
The artist's use of high scale colour, his reworking of familiar themes in different media, enthusiasm and energy are joined by another characteristic, not necessarily associated with Modernists - humour. This is evident in his titles, "Mixed Bouquet and Léger (3-D)" and "Bedroom Face with Lichtenstein (3-D)", 1992, in the way that his "Great American Nude" parodies the "Great American Novel/Dream" [and in his "Little Great American Nude"], but also in the monograph on Wassermann that he published under the alias `Slim Stealingworth'. He also drew cartoons when in the Army and after art school hours.
This is a really good, well-illustrated introduction to an artist slightly in the shadow of Warhol and Leichtenstein.
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