Almine Rech Gallery and Gagosian presents two concurrent and related exhibitions of works by Tom Wesselmann in London.
Organized in partnership with The Estate of Tom Wesselmann, both exhibitions highlight the bold approach to scale and color, art history and erotic representation that make Wesselmann one of the most inventive Pop artists of his time.
Wesselmann first gained critical acclaim in the early 1960s for his Great American Nude series. Many of these lounging female subjects, with pouted lips and tan lines, were painted in patriotic red, white, and blue, combining the prototypes of Western figure painting—from Titian to Matisse—with the high voltage of American advertising. After the Great American Nude paintings, Wesselmann shifted his focus, exploring more intimate, close-up views of the nude in the Bedroom Paintings.
The first time I broke the rectangle, it seemed like a big deal, even though it had been done for years in advertising.
At Almine Rech Gallery, the key work Nude with Lamp (1977-80) is accompanied by related paintings and works on paper. For Wesselmann, Nude with Lamp posed two challenges: the eccentric shape of the canvas and the chiaroscuro of the nude in shadow. While his first shaped canvases were determined by the silhouette of a single depicted object, as in the Smoker series, later works such as Nude with Lamp are shaped according to their own logic, rather than that of the painted image, utilizing the blank space of the bare wall behind. Repurposing the formal elements of advertising, such as shaped posters and cutouts, Wesselmann complicates the relationship between his female figures and their environments, their long, tanned legs often appearing to extend beyond the two-dimensional surface. After Great American Nude #100 (1973), his titles became more descriptive, even personal, sometimes naming the model, as in Pat Nude or Barbara and Baby, detailed studies of which are included in this exhibition.
Over the years, I’d gotten excited about scale…I wanted to deal with these big shapes; so I came in closer and closer on the nude…That was really when my work began.
Tom Wesselmann was born in Cincinnati in 1931, and died in New York in 2004. His work is featured in museum collections worldwide, including Tate, London; Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt; Hamburger Kunsthalle, Germany; Museum Ludwig, Cologne; Albertina, Vienna; Berardo Museum, Lisbon; Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; Museum of Contemporary Art North Miami, FL; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.; High Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA; Israel Museum, Jerusalem; and Hara Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo. Recent institutional exhibitions include Museo d’Arte Contemporanea di Roma (2005); “Tom Wesselmann Draws,” The Kreeger Museum, Washington, D.C.; “Beyond Pop Art: A Tom Wesselmann Retrospective,” Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Quebec (2012, traveled to Cincinnati Art Museum, OH; and Denver Art Museum, CO, through 2014); and “Pop Art and Beyond: Tom Wesselmann,” Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Raleigh, NC (2013).
“Tom Wesselmann: La Promesse du Bonheur,” will open at Le Nouveau Musée National de Monaco in 2018.
On the occasion of Frieze Masters 2017, Almine Rech Gallery will exhibit a selection of drawings by Tom Wesselmann.