Tom Wesselmann never considered himself a Pop artist. He would point out that he made aesthetic use of everyday objects, rather than critique them as consumer objects. He once said: “I dislike labels in general and ‘Pop’ in particular, especially because it overemphasizes the material used. There does seem to be a tendency to use similar materials and images, but the different ways they are used denies any kind of group intention.”
The artist, however, was clearly in dialogue with his Pop predecessors and contemporaries, among them Lichtenstein and Warhol, with whom he shared an interest in the commodification of the female form and still life.
In addition to being widely known for his paintings of “The Great American Nude”, Tom Wesselmann was a master of the still life. The creation of settings in his works, as opposed to the representation of a lone object is primarily what sets him apart from the other pop artists, and the pop movement. He was a modern-day Matisse who made use of Pop imagery.
In this week’s Work Of the Week! (WOW), Still Life with Liz, Tom Wesselman is taking Andy Warhol’s Liz Taylor and placing it in his painting as nothing more than an object in a room, He is creating a familiar and recognizable setting, in which you can imagine yourself walking into a home, and seeing a console with a vase positioned next to a painting.
By using Warhol’s Liz Taylor, Wesselmann is not only affirming Andy Warhol’s place in art history as a pop artist, but also using Warhol’s iconic pop art image as an everyday object, solidifying Andy Warhol’s artwork as a work of art. In other words (in a reversed or opposite sort of way), Tom Wesselmann is applying the very same concept to his art work that Andy Warhol did.
Warhol took everyday objects and turned them into art. We call his style of art “pop art’. Tom Wesselmann took Warhol’s image of Liz Taylor and turned it into an everyday object by placing this image in his artwork. The image of Liz in this still life is no different than a 7up bottle or a package of Wonder Bread in other still life works by Wesselmann.
Andy Warhol made Liz Taylor accessible by allowing us to hang her on our wall. He is credited with democratizing art. Tom Wesselmann affirms this concept showing us just that. He has taken a pop art painting and turned it into a painting of pop art
Additional Wesselmann works available in the gallery:
Monica with Mondrian, 1989
Big Blonde with Chocker (Grey), 1992
Wildflower Bouquet, 1987
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