Tom Wesselman

Tom Wesselmann, as an art student at New York’s Cooper Union, was a devotee of the Abstract Expressionists Willem de Kooning and Jackson Pollack among others. His turning away from their example came about with the realization that those painters had carried their investigations into the possibilities of painting so far into themselves that there was little room in which a newcomer from the next generation might carry on. A new start was necessary from a premise removed as far as possible from the heroic introspection of action painting.” That premise was an assumption that the artifacts of the everyday world were of significance in their own right. It was, in a way, a repetition of the revolt of The Eight against an effete academy. This time it was not so much a revolt against the hermetic individualism of Abstract Expressionism as it was a decision, spontaneous and undirected, to go back to the beginning–back to what is understood for what it is by absolutely everyone. The swing of the pendulum was complete, from the esoteric to the commonplace, from passionate individualism to the popular language of the marketplace. The new point of view was not merely popular, it was “pop,” assertive, declamatory, defiant, achieving a stylistic identity in the soup cans of Andy Warhol, the comic strips of Roy Lichtenstein, the billboards of James Rosenquist, and the domestic icons of Tom Wesselmann.


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