Tom Wesselmann Collages 1959-1964 at David Zwirner Gallery
Known for his Great American Nude collection, Tom Wesselmann borrows from European tradition to reinvent the female nude and lend her an American touch. Focussing solely on the artist’s early years, David Zwirner Gallery presents over 30 collages made between 1959 and 1964, with the intent of capturing the first signs of his trademark style, but also to invite viewers to appreciate his early works in their own right. Covering subjects ranging from still lives to landscapes, Wesselmann mixes patterns and textures by combining a wide selection of materials such as photographs, magazine cut-outs, wallpapers and fabrics.
When Wassermann first came to prominence, critics saw similarities between his style and the works of other successful artists of the time, such as Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol. His name was thus linked to the Pop Art movement. In spite of using the same kind of devices, however, he did not identify with the trend and its messages. Wesselmann’s works seek to appreciate and reflect on what is depicted, and they lack the polemic tone of his contemporaries’ art. He brings the old, or rather eternal, fascination with the female nude, in contact with the modern world of bold colours and pasted images. His interest in the aesthetics is his primary focus and this, he thought, negates comparisons with other pop artists.
The link with pop art, however, persisted, and to many its seeds are discernible in these early works. While his first experiments with collage are all relatively small in size, they are invariably rich in content. Most feature female nudes that are loosely hand-drawn and lacking in detail, surrounded by lavish and elaborate colourful settings. For those interested in the artist’s work, this is an opportunity to see the less developed precursors to his famous pieces. Although experimental and to an extent tentative, these early compositions exude a sense of intimacy that is perhaps lacking in some of his more celebrated pieces. This collection complements and in a way explains the journey that led to his bigger and bolder artistic ventures. For those who are not familiar with Wesselmann, the exhibition may seem tame, but it nevertheless offers a stimulating introduction to an artist who was overshadowed to an extent and whose contribution is worth acknowledging.
Tom Wesselmann Collages 1959-1964 is at the David Zwirner Gallery from 29th January until 24th March 2016, for further information visit here.