Like most still life’s, Tom Wesselmann’s Still Life #57 (1969–70) presents a number of ordinary objects — including an orange, a bouquet of flowers, a light switch, a radio, and a checked tablecloth. The artist spent three years developing this monumental work. The “main difficult . . . and the one that took so long to resolve as cropping or not cropping the radio,“ he said. “I wanted to crop it to keep it more in a painting reference rather than something like a stage set.”
Photographed in the Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan.
A definite “Oh, Wow!” moment at the recent BDNY show — (boutique design for the hospitality industry) at Javits Center — occurred when I walked into the booth for Century Industries. Because: David Bowie Chair.
The enormous sandwich and pack of cigarettes in Still Life Number 36 (1964) reflect Tom Wesselmann’s nonhierarchical approach to subject matter and technique. He believed that anything could be art, including the ordinary consumer items that fill our pockets and kitchen cabinets. In 1962, Wesselmann began a series of large-scale still lifes that incorporated fragments of discarded commercial billboards, which he initially scavenged from trash cans but later procured in new, pristine condition directly from advertising agencies. The larger-than-life proportions of the objects in Still Life Number 36 at first seem to celebrate the surfeit of commercial goods in America’s postwar consumer culture. Yet the layers of collage and painted areas bring together incongruent depictions of reality, creating tensions in the composition that Wesselmann described as “reverberation.
By the 1970s, Roy Lichtenstein’s comic-strip style of painting had become his trademark. While he had adapted his early compositions from actual comic books, here Lichtenstein referred to an art historical rather than a pop culture source: Henri Matisse’s Red Studio (1911, in the collection of MoMA), which features Matisse’s canvases casually set around a room. Into the flattened studio space of Artists Studio Foot Medication (1974), Lichtenstein similarly inserted whole of partial versions of his own real and imagined artworks across a range of subject matter, including geometric abstraction. This painting’s title calls out the 1962 print Foot Medication, reimagined as a monumental painting at the upper left. This kind of self-quotation, at once playful and thoughtful, would become anther feature of Lichtenstein’s production.