Monica Nude with Lichtenstein. Original color silkscreen on cardboard, 2002. Edition of 60 signed and numbered impressions on a cardboard.
Tom Wesselmann is one of the biggest American pop artists today. Even he did not like being labeled a pop artist, it is hard to imagine that his artworks featuring consumer goods and assorted American icons would be considered anything but pop art. At first he was a follower of abstract expressionism, but later switched to figurative art. In the late ‘50s he produced a series of small format collages, which became the basis for his future nudes and still lifes. In 1963 he married Claire Selley, his most faithful model from the series ‘Great American Nude’, and other nudes. In his search for creative styles he began to produce three-dimensional works with the technique of assemblage, using everyday objects such as telephones and televisions. In the ‘Still Life’ series he used advertising techniques and complemented traditional still lifes with mass consumption items taken directly from ads. In the ‘80s he began to work with metals and produced original works with a special laser. Over the next two decades he returned to large formats and the theme of the nude from the ‘60s, rounding off his career with The ‘Sunset Nude’ series, inspired by the works of Matisse. Tom Wesselmann went down in history as one of the greatest representatives of pop art due to his exciting commercial images, his aggressive intervention in three dimensions, his choice of trivial motifs, their monumentalisation, the use of stereotypes as a basis for his work and the choice of strong colors. Wesselmann’s aesthetic usage of everyday objects was done not in criticism of American consumerism and culture, but as a way to render Classical genres modern so as to explore the gap between art and contemporary life. He has a series that incorporated iconic paintings by other artists, including Lichtenstein, Warhol, and Matisse, juxtaposing with his famous nudes. On the one side we have homages like this to Lichtenstein, which are a representation of one known person, and Wesselmann is telling us about the value system and modernity in his time through artworks of famous artists. On the other side, the nudes are totally depersonalized (as well as the nudes from the earlier periods), without portrait elements, which shows us an alienation and the absence of character in society.