by Steven Rosen
Posted In: Visual Art
at 02:29 PM | Permalink
Beyond Pop: A Tom Wesselmann
to the general public today at Cincinnati Art Museum, with an Art After Dark
Halloween costume party from 5-9 p.m. part of the celebrations for the late native-Cincinnatian,
New York-based Pop artist.
night, members of the museum’s Founders Society level ($1,500-$50,000) got a
special opening that included Wesselmann’s widow (and frequent model) Claire
discussing her husband’s work with Jeffrey Sturges, studio manager for the Tom
presentation started with Matt Distel, the museum’s adjunct curator for
Contemporary art, praising the exhibit’s installation — especially the work of chief
perparator Kim Flora. “You would hardly know how difficult and heavy those
pieces are — they look like they float off the wall,” he said.
agree — some of Wesselmann’s complex pieces as gigantic canvases, some are
shaped canvases with three-dimensional elements, some are assemblages with
sculptural elements, and he did a series of “metal paintings” (oil or enamel on
cut-out aluminum) that had to be difficult to handle and mount. None looks
graceless or awkward in the gallery spaces.
Claire presented the museum with a gift — one of Wesselmann’s metal paintings, “Barn
Near Hilltop Airport.” And she explained how much her husband wanted a U.S.
museum retrospective while he was alive, revealing that he saved important
works for such an occasion and even prepared a speech in his diary.
She read an
excerpt: “I loved being alive even though I buried myself alive in my work.”
(He died in
2004 at age 73. While he had European retrospectives, this is the first in the
U.S./Canada. It has already been in Montreal, Richmond, Va., and Denver — this is the
last stop. Montreal’s Museum of Fine Arts with the Estate’s assistance
organized the first two stops; Cincinnati the last two.)
conversation with Sturges, Claire offered some insights into her husband’s
work. One of his great early Pop innovations, the use of cutout images from
billboard advertising posters as collage elements in his paintings, came about
for practical reasons.
As a poor
artist, he could get those for the asking — he wrote to companies to send them.
And he knew how to get them free, too. “At that time, they took down subway
posters and threw them in the can,” she said. “So then Tom came along and took
revealed that Tom loved the Abstract Expressionist art in vogue in the mid-
to-late 1950s, when they were attending New York’s Cooper Union college
together. But he knew he needed to do something new. “Abstraction was the thing
he really wanted to do, but he took another path,” she said. “But he came back
As Tom moved
through different themes in his work, in the 1990s he started turning to
abstraction in his metal paintings. A picture of one, 1993’s “Claire’s Thigh,”
was shown at the presentation. “I like this very much, minus the title,” Claire
question-and-answer period, there was also discussion of Tom’s infatuation with Country and Western music. He wrote more than 400 songs and some were recorded. One,
“I Love Doing Texas With You,” was played softly in the film Brokeback Mountain. The retrospective
has a small display devoted to his music, although no way to hear any of it.
when she and Tom would visit his parents in Cincinnati from New York he’d
listen to country music on the radio. “He’d take the car and we’d go driving
and he’d flip on the country stations,” she said. He’d say, ‘I like the
stories.’”Visit www.cincinnatiartmuseum.org for
0 Comments · Wednesday, November 14, 2012
I hope the inaugural FotoFocus, which has
formally concluded although related exhibits still are up around town,
was successful by the standards of its organizers, and that they are
eager to plan for the next one in 2014.
0 Comments · Tuesday, March 20, 2012
Artists have to come from somewhere, I
suppose. Still, it’s remarkable how many of the giants of Pop Art came
from and/or matriculated in our stretch of the Midwest — Andy Warhol was
born in Pittsburgh, Robert Indiana in the Hoosier state, Roy
Lichtenstein studied at Ohio State and Jim Dine and Tom Wesselmann both
were born in Cincinnati.