Tom Wesselmann - from 1963 to 2004

Tom Wesselmann 1931-2004

Tom Wesselmann was born in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1931.He went to Hiram College in 1949, then studied psychology at the University of Cincinnati, interrupted by his military service, and majored in 1956. While serving in the military in Corea(1952 to 1954), he started drawing cartoons.
He studied at the Art Academy of Cincinnati, then went to New York and from 1956 to 1959 studied under Nicolas Marsicano at the Cooper Union School of Art and Architecture.
His early work was influenced by Abstract Expressionism, especially de Kooning, but in 1959 he turned to experimenting with small collages of still lifes and figures, which attest to his turning to pop-art. Like many other pop artists, he used and was inspired by motifs from mass media like advertisements and posters, film and television.
Wesselmann further developed Rauschenberg's assemblage techniques by creating a synthesis of painting and environment. One series called Bathtub-Collages consisted of female nudes in a bathroom with everyday objects like real doors or towels. The collages led to a series of nudes in 1960 and a year later the Little American Nude series. However, Welsselmann felt the urge to create larger formats and used one of the smaller collages as a basis for Great American Nude#1: a painting using the colours red, blue and white. The title satirises the American over-use of the phrase Great American- film, dream etc.
The 1960's brought first fame and exhibitions to Wesselmann.
He had his first one-man exhibition at the Tanager Gallery, New York, in 1961.
In 1962 he participated in the exhibition The Figure at the Museum of Art, New York. In 1963 he was included in Pop Goes the East at the Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston, and in 1965 in the Young America 1965 exhibition at the Whitney Museum, New york. He was represented at the Sao Paulo Biennale, 1967, and at the documenta in Kassel in 1968 and 1977. His exhibition Early Still-Lifes 1962-1964 toured the USA in 1970 and The Early Years: Collages 1959-62 in 1974. In the same year he was included in the exhibition American Pop Art at the Whitney Museum in New York. Here Wesselmann was ranked among the top echelon of pop artists, together with Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein and Claes Oldenberg.
Wesselmann depicted parts of the female body like a mouth or breasts in huge formats, bold colours and graphic shapes. He surrounded them again with real or painted requisites like radiators, bath tubs and radios.
The image of the modern woman, tanned from the beach with bikini tan lines, slim from severe dieting, shining like the fashion photographs in glossy magazines, but faceless, is the main focus of his work. Since the 1980's Wesselmann enlarged his drawings and cut them out of aluminium or steel, which he then painted, thus opening up a new dimension for the viewer and himself.
His works are in the collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art and Guggenheim Museum in New York, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Walker Art Institute in Minneapolis, Hara Museum, Tokio, Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art in Helsinki, Tate Gallery in London and Museum Ludwig in Koln, to name but a few.

In December 2004 Tom Wesselmann died at the age of 73 in New York after heart surgery.

The Columns Gallery
President Chang, DongJo