Personality would only be distraction from the simple fact of nudity. When I create physical details like lips or nipples, they are of importance for the erotic simplification. From the beginning I never gave them faces. A face gives personal touch to a sexual act, makes it a portait act. And that, I don´t like at all."
Tom Wesselmann is one of the leading Pop artists who had a critical look on the development of society strongly influenced by media and advertsing, making a cult out of sex and stars.
He became widely known for his work on two major series: the “Great American Nude”, begun in 1961 showing in unemotional distance faceless bodies of women and/or genitals and – at the same time - making public the secret wishes of an inhibited society. Wesselmann created an uncomparable creative style and the icons of the “American male dream girl”. Depicted each in flat, vibrant color and streamlined in simple abstracted forms.
With the series of “Great American Still Life”, begun in 1962, Wesselmann developed a collagelike style of painting in which three-dimensional household objects were cleverly juxtaposed with painted imagery. He frequently incorporated printed billboards, store display signs and magazine advertising in his work.. Although also these brands seem faceless without logos, there is never any doubt about their identity. By doing so, Wesselmann exposed advertising in an exploding consumer society as “secret seduction” in direct analogy to sexual liberalization and to seduction through sexual attraction.
Again and again the burning cigarette appears, sometimes reduced to the product itself, sometimes in a close-up image with slightly opended female red lips (“Smoker" 1971-1973).
Further clichées of advertising come up in “Landscape No.2”, looking like a billboard for the Volkswagen Beetle in an unreal landscape with plastic trees. Very seldom he worked on still lifes of flowers or landscapes.
Wesselmann was a sporadic but inventive printmaker throughout the 60s and 70s, who favoured screenprint but also worked in unconventional formats, such as blind embossings. He also completed several vacuum-formed plastic multiples during this period, as well as five banners and a tapestry edition and unlimited editions of several hand-colored prints. In the 80s he focussed on “cut outs” of metal reproducing his most famous artworks, but could not connect to his former success.
Copyrights for all his artworks:
© Tom Wesselmann and VG Bild Kunst Bonn
Fairbrother, Trevor: Graphics 1964-1977. Boston. Institute of Contemporary Art. 1978
Tom Wesselmann – 1959-1993
Thomas Buchsteiner/Otto Letze. Edition Cantz, Stuttgart, 1994
Tom Wesselmann – The Abstratc Maquettes
Weide, Bonn, 2001