WOW! – Work of the Week – Leon Polk Smith, Volair, from Constellation Series





Leon Polk Smith

Volair, from Constellation Series

1975

Screenprint

41 1/8 x 29 1/2 in.

Edition of 80

Pencil signed and numbered

About the work:

Considered one of the founders of the hard-edge style of abstract art, Leon Polk Smith rose to prominence in the 1960s with his distinctive shaped canvas series — the “Constellations”.

This week’s Work Of the Week (WOW!) is the 1975 screenprint Volair, from this important Constellations Series

It was in 1936, while attending Columbia University’s famed Teachers College, that Smith was introduced to the geometric works of contemporary European artists. The works of the Dutch artist Piet Mondrian caught his eye during his studies. He was deeply inspired by Mondrian’s aesthetics, if not fully convinced by the philosophy behind them. A pragmatic American in his approach, Smith took what he wanted from the aesthetic experience and discarded the theorizing.

However, it would be another few years before the influence of De Stijl, the movement inspired by Mondrian in which pure abstraction is achieved through form and color, clearly manifested itself in Smith’s work. His perceptions of artistic space led to a quest to make color and form one. This quest consisted of a series of intuitive decisions rather than the theoretical, ruminative creative process that preoccupied Mondrian and other members of the De Stijl group.

Smith established his key motif while perusing an athletic catalogue in the late 1940s. Examining the pencil drawings of baseballs and tennis balls in it, Smith began to imagine that from these simple shapes he could create a new kind of space.

As he described:

“It was flat and the same time it was curved. It was like a sphere. The planes seemed to move in every direction, as space does. And so I thought, maybe that is because that’s on the tondo. I’ve got to find out if that is true or not. I’ve got to do some on a rectangle to see if the form and the space still moved in every direction. And it did. So it was exciting to do a painting on a rectangle that seemed to have a curved surface. It was the first time, you see, that I had made an important step myself, or contribution in art.”

While his Minimalist peers during that time were shifting away from Modernism and rejecting relationality, Smith was wholeheartedly advancing the formal and rational elements of the Modernist tradition. By introducing a single curving line, Smith created two pictorial spaces, allowing for the interchangeability of positive and negative space. He developed his signature hard-edge style over the following decade, beginning with creating a series of paintings in which he explores the circle by developing a curvilinear shape within it using two colors, and later experimenting with more colors in oval, rectangular and square shapes.

By 1967, Smith’s circular explorations introduced additional panels and defined his shaped, multi-part “Constellation” series of paintings and drawings, among his most exuberant and inventive compositions.

WOW! – Work of the Week – INVADER, Rubik Six Cubes



Invader
Rubik Six Cube (Blue/Yellow)
2009-2010
Screenprint
27 1/2 x 19 5/8 in.
Edition of 20
Pencil signed, dated and numbered

Invader
Rubik Six Cube (Orange/Yellow)
2009-2010
Screenprint
27 1/2 x 19 5/8 in.
Edition of 20
Pencil signed, dated and numbered


About the work:

Rubik’s Cubes are meant to be solved, right?   Wrong!!  

The art of cubing takes on a different meaning under the 8-bit eyes of Invader. Twisting dozens, even hundreds of Rubik’s Cubes into precise patterns of pixelated pointillism, Invader updates artistic techniques pioneered by Picasso, Duchamp, Seurat and others into a new and distinctly modern form: Rubikcubism.

Billed as the “Urban Seurat”, Invader is the pseudonym of a French urban artist, born in 1969, whose work is modeled on the crude pixellation of 1970s–1980s 8-bit video games. A graduate of the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, Invader initially derived inspiration for his creations from video games from the late 1970s to early 1980s that he played when he was growing up, particularly characters from Space Invaders, from which he derived his name. Games of the era were made with 8-bit graphics, and so lend themselves well to his method of each tile representing one pixel.

Rubikcubism:

One of Invader’s most important innovations was Rubikcubism, a style of mosaic art that uses various Rubik’s Cube configurations to create extremely complex images.

While most try to solve the Rubik’s Cube, anonymous French Street-Artist, Space Invader has come up with another creative use for the toy. Since 2004, he has been using Rubik’s Cubes to create crude-pixelated pointillism artwork. Updating and modernizing a technique pioneered by Georges Seurat and Paul Signac, Invader named the movement: Rubikcubism, and has continued to experiment with the style ever since.

This week’s Work of the Week! (WOW!) is Invader’s Rubik Six Cube Series. These screenprints are made up of 6 cubes, all arranged in a specific manner to create an image. In the case of this series, Invader’s trademark Space-Invader, his most  iconic image of the 80’s is portrayed. Coming of age in the 80’s, much of Invader’s artistic identity revolves around the iconic imagery and pop culture of his youth.

Given the difficulty of solving a Rubik Cube, let alone attempting to create images, Invader uses a computer program to work out the precise disposition of the six colors for each image. He then manipulates the nine pixels for each Rubik’s Cube to give the required pattern.

Invader Rubiks_Art_                    Invader Rubiks_Art_2

While this series is made up of the use of six cubes, some of Invader’s creations can use over 300 Cubes.  He has recreated “Masterpieces” where famous paintings by artists such as Delacroix, Warhol, Seurat, and Lichtenstein are given a work over. He has a series of Rubikcubism works entitled “Low Fidelity” based on iconic album art such as “Country Life” by Roxy Music, and The Velvet Underground & Nico.  He has also created a series of “Bad Men” where Invader reinterprets villains such as Osama bin Laden, Jaws and Al Capone.

Invader Rubiks_Art_3

All these works and themes are relative to pop culture, and to today’s world in which we live in, with a touch of nostalgia from his days as a youth.

What does Erno Rubik, the inventor of the Rubik’s Cube have to say about Invader’s use of his famous toy puzzle in his artworks?

When asked he says: “I’m glad the Cube is reaching new generations, who face it with fresh wonder, curiosity and enthusiasm.”   

WOW! – Work of the Week – KOONS, Balloon Dog





Jeff Koons
Balloon Dog (Yellow)
2015
Metallic Porcelain
10 1/2 x 10 1/2 x 5 in.
Edition of 2,300
Signed and numbered on verso

About the work:

Nov. 12, 2013 – Christie’s Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Sale in New York City

Balloon Dog (Orange) by Jeff Koons  became the most expensive artwork by a living artist sold at auction.  The work sold for $58.4 million USD

The price topped Koons’s previous record of $33.7 million USD, and the record for the most expensive living artist, held by Gerhard Richter, whose 1968 painting, Domplatz, Mailand, sold for $37.1 million USD, at Sotheby’s on May 14, 2013.   Balloon Dog (Orange) was one of the first of the Balloon dogs to be fabricated, and had been acquired by Greenwich collector Peter Brant in the late 1990s.

____________________________________________________________

Jeff Koons derives inspiration from things you might find at a yard sale: inflatable plastic toys, vacuum cleaners, porcelain trinkets and other items not typically considered fine art. He is the epitome of Neo-Pop, a 1980s movement that looked to earlier Pop artists, particularly Warhol, for inspiration.

Since his emergence in the 1980s, Jeff Koons has blended the concerns and methods of Pop, Conceptual, and appropriation art with craft-making and popular culture to create his own unique iconography, often controversial and always engaging. His work explores contemporary obsessions with sex and desire; race and gender; and celebrity, media, commerce, and fame.

A self-proclaimed “idea man,” Koons hires artisans and technicians to make the actual works. For him, the hand of the artist is not the important issue: “Art is really just communication of something and the more archetypal it is, the more communicative it is.”

Jeff Koons’s artwork rarely inspires moderate responses, and this is one signal of the importance of his achievement. Focusing on some of the most unexpected objects as models for his work, Koons’s work eschews typical standards of “good taste” in art and zeroes in precisely on the vulnerabilities of hierarchies and value systems.

Art critic Christopher Knight writes, “He [Koons] turns the traditional cliché of the work of art inside out: rather than embodying a spiritual or expressive essence of a highly individuated artist, art here is composed from a distinctly American set of conventional middle-class values.”

This weeks Work of the Week (WOW!) is precisely a work of conventional middle class values.

Jeff Koons is best known for working with popular culture subjects and his reproductions of banal objects—such asballoon animals produced in stainless steel with mirror-finish surfaces.

His steel Balloon Dog sculptures, probably his best-known works, transpose an ephemeral childhood memory into an enduring form. His work looks cheap, but is expensive, an ingenious reversal of economic logic that forms the basis for his stunning commercial success.  Rather than offending the art snob, Koons has challenged top collectors to revise their notions of what fine art looks like.

His sculptures are not merely conceptual, but aesthetic, in ways that challenge us, especially those of us accustomed to fine art. Kitsch and high culture, religion and eroticism, weightlessness and mass are among the apparent opposites that mix and mingle in his work.

“Balloon Dog is a very optimistic piece, its a balloon that a clown would have maybe twist for you at a birthday party.  But at the same time there’s the profoundness of an archaic sculpture.  The piece has an interior life while the reflective exterior surface affirms the viewer through their reflection.”  – Jeff Koons

Koons is essentially a late twentieth-century incarnation of Marcel Duchamp. Like the French Conceptual artist who thought America’s bridges and plumbing her finest artworks, Koons strips industrially-made objects of their practical purpose and re-presents them as art.

WOW! – Work of the Week – WARHOL, Blackglama





Andy Warhol
Blackglama, from Ads
1985
Screenprint on Lenox Museum Board
40 x 40 in.
Unqiue
Authenticated and stamped by the Andy Warhol Foundation on verso

About the work:

WHAT BECOMES A LEGEND MOST?

One of the most famous advertising campaigns of the 20th century began in 1968: the series of full-page, black-and-white print ads for “Blackglama” furs. The campaign was an instant success thanks to the (at the time) new formula of combining a brilliant tag line, with a glamourous and famous icon to promote a luxury item.

“What becomes a Legend most?” is the memorable slogan for Blackglama furs.

Something that has always intrigued people about the brand name is: why the GLAMA in Blackglama, is not GLAMOUR? The whole campaign started when approximately 400 mink ranchers from the Great Lakes Mink Association (a.k.a. GLMA) were looking to revamp the image of their product. Ad executive, Jane Trahey of Jane Trahery Associates in NYC came up with the idea to incorporate the deep black color of the mink and the name of the association. Thus the name and the memorable slogan were born: “What becomes a Legend most?” (the “L” in legend was always capitalized).

Famed photographer Richard Avadon was brought on by the campaign to photograph the most important female celebrities of the time. In the first year alone, Lauren Bacall, Bette Davis and Judy Garland modeled for the brand. Every model was gifted an $8,000 Blackglama mink coat. Legend has it that Judy Garland left the studio without even bothering to have hers lined.

Here below we see Avadon’s contact sheet of Judy Garland posing in her Blackglama for the ad campaign

This week’s Work of the Week! WOW! is Blackglama, from Ads, featuring Judy Garland by Andy Warhol. Ever the observer of the times in which he lived, the artist, who began his career as a commercial illustrator in the 50’s was fascinated with the commercial world. Warhol glamorized and transformed celebrities and everyday objects like soup cans and Brillo Pads, into works of art. In the mid 1980’s he created one of his most sought after and iconic sets of screenprints: the Ads Series. Andy Warhol’s work explores the themes and the relationship between artistic expression, and the celebrity culture, advertisement, capitalism and consumerism that were prevalent at the time. The cultural force that was the Blackglama ad campaign fit perfectly into his philosophy and was a obvious choice to include into the Ads portfolio.

This particular version of Warhol’s Blackglama is a unique working proof, outside of the regular edition. It is much different from the one that we are most familiar with. In this work, the most notable difference is the background and the colors of Judy Garland herself. In the regular edition, the background is black and the color blue is the most prevalent for the mink, as well as her hair. In this working proof, there are more colors and the detail of Judy Garland’s face, hair and mink are more pronounced. The slogan at the top even has a slightly different hue.

Another noticeable difference is the size of this work. The regular edition Blackglama measures 38 x 38 in. This working proof measures 40 x 40 in. If you look closely at the bottom and left margins, you will see traces of regular edition coloring underneath this unique proof. Warhol did this quite often, working out different color arrangements and schemes until he got it just right.

These working proofs have become quite rare, hard to find and highly sought after. Each proof is different. Each proof is considered a unique work of art. This unique working proof of Blackglama is certified by the Andy Warhol foundation on the verso with its registration number. It is also accompanied with a letter of authenticity by the Andy Warhol Authentication Board.

WOW! – Work of the Week – LICHTENSTEIN, Titled





 

Roy Lichtenstein
Titled
1996
Sreenprint on Coventry Rag paper
31 1/2 x 39 1/2 in
Edition of 175
Pencil signed, dated and numbered

About the work:

Roy Lichtenstein was the epitome of Pop art. His paintings are instantly recognizable through his use of Benday Dots, bold colors and thick lines. This recognition, as one of Pop Art’s Greats, came late in life for the artist. Lichtenstein knew he wanted to make a living from his artwork, but it wasn’t until his late 30’s that he was able to do so. Until that time, he supported himself mostly through teaching. When Leo Castelli took the artist under his wing and put together his first solo-show in 1962, Lichtenstein became an overnight sensation. The entire show had sold out before the opening night. 

Lichtenstein’s work reinvigorated the American art scene and altered the history of modern art. After his triumph at Castelli’s famed gallery, he went on to create a body of work of more than 5,000 paintings, prints, drawings, sculptures, murals and other objects celebrated for their wit and invention.

Most famously, Lichtenstein appropriated the Benday dots. The dots became a trademark device forever identified with the artist and Pop Art. In order to achieve the dots, the artist would use various kinds of stencils with perforated patterns that he would brush paint across, creating perfect circles void of brush strokes. 

Benday dot printing is a minute mechanical patterning used in commercial engraving consisting of small colored dots. The process is named after illustrator and printer Benjamin Henry Day Jr. who invented it in 1879. Originally, this technique was used in the printing of Pulp Comic Books in the 50’s and 60’s as an inexpensive way to create shading and secondary colors. Lichtenstein elevated a cheap, commercial printing process into fine art, managing to evoke strong emotions. 

This week’s Work of the Week! WOW! is Titled by Roy Lichtenstein. The print was produced for the 1996 election cycle for the effort “Artists for Freedom of Expression.” It was to benefit the candidates and organizations that supported federal funding of the arts. Sixteen of the nations most respected contemporary artists were solicited to donate work that would be sold to directly benefit the cause, among them were Chuck Close, Peter Haley, Jenny Holzer, Elsworth Kelly, Bruce Newman, Robert Rauschenberg and James Rosenquist. 

While Lichtenstein is known for his use of Benday dots, in this particular image, the style he uses is called Halftone. Benday dots are always the same size, Halftone dots on the other hand, are always the same color and vary in size and/or spacing and create a gradient or atmospheric perspective. In this work, the halftone dots become smaller in the distance, implying the vastness of the sea. 

With just a few simple, strategic swathes, Lichtenstein is able to suggest the features of a landscape. A think blue line represents the horizon while an undulating green one delineates the shore from the water. The sun is particularly interesting, a yellow monotone circle with a curious black crescent shape. Finally, the texture of the leaves and trees is fascinating, as thought the artist created the foliage with a paint filled sponge which brings to mind a more abstract style. 

WOW! – Work of the Week – HIRST, Black Brilliant Utopia





Damien Hirst
Black Brilliant Utopia
2013
Inkjet, Glaze and Diamond Dust on Hahnemmuhle photo rag paper
34 x 28 in.
Edition of 50
Signed and numbered in ink

About the work:

“Pills are a brilliant little form, better than any minimalist art, they’re all designed to make you buy them… they come out of flowers, plants, things from the ground, and they make you feel good.” Damien Hirst

We live in a chemical world, where everything from pain to pleasure to survival itself can be shaped by legal and illegal drugs. Many people live on a daily cocktail of prescribed pharmaceuticals, and many others take unprescribed ones. Life seems to be muffled by medicine.

Damien Hirst, the “enfant terrible” of the Young British Artist movement has often made work around the seductive allure of pharmaceuticals. His cylindrical pills and medicine cabinets have become as synonymous with the artist as the formaldehyde shark. Even his instantly recognizable Spot paintings make strong reference to medications and their effects. Hirst, who has admitted to a ten year struggle with drug and alcohol abuse in the 90’s has a deep fascination with death and mortality, themes that are front and center in most of his works.

In his series of medicine cabinets and pills, Hirst taps into both the apprehension and awe that we experience when we come into contact with alluring products that have the power to soothe away our misery, pain and reality.

This week’s Work of the Week! WOW! is Black Brilliant Utopia, by Damien Hirst. The work references the ability of pills and medication to mesmerize yet instill fear in us. Through the brilliant, sparkling of the diamond dust, the artwork plays on the aspect of temptation. Our society is drawn, almost hypnotized by medication. The layout of the pills on the shelves conveys a sense of antiseptic orderliness with an unmistakeable pharmaceutical aesthetic. This calculated precision is reassuring, however the dark hues of the pills transmit an unnerving sentiment, which brings to mind the more dire aspects of a medicated society.

Hirst’s medicine cabinets project a certain Pop Art aesthetic. The object is familiar to consumers, and connects with the artist’s philosophical preoccupations of birth and death, and more importantly, a deep belief that art heals.

WOW! – Work of the Week – STELLA, Referendum ’70





Frank Stella
Referendum ’70
1970
Screenprint
40 x 40 in.
Edition of 200
Pencil signed, dated and numbered

About the work:

Frank Stella is an American painter and printmaker, noted for his work in the areas of minimalism and post-painterly abstraction.

Stella reacted against the expressive use of paint by most painters of the abstract expressionist movement, instead finding himself drawn towards the “flatter” surfaces of Barnett Newman’s work.  He began to produce works which emphasized the picture-as-object, rather than the picture as a representation of something in the physical world, or something in the artist’s emotional world.

From 1960 Stella began to produce paintings of shaped canvases in their presentation of regular lines of color separated by pinstripes.  During this time, he also began to experiment in a wider range of colors, and expressing an affinity with architecture in their monumentality, Stella also introduced curves into his works, marking the beginning of the Protractor series. 

Following a trip to the Middle East, Stella was very inspired by the way the cities’ circular paths interlaced and interweaved like snakes chasing their tails. With that thought it mind he created the Protractor Series. The Protractor series, deploys a vivid palette and composition consisting of rectangular shapes superimposed on curving and circular forms, in which there are three design groups—“interlaces,” “rainbows,” or “fans”—encompasses its surface patterning.  

This week’s Work of the Week! – (WOW!), Referendum ’70, is a screenprint based on Frank Stella’s Protractor paintings.  

Like many artists of his generation, Frank Stella was politically active and engaged. He participated in several fundraising efforts for which he would donate a complete printed edition to a cause.

Referendum ’70 was based on one of the causes Stella supported: Vietnam Referendum ’70, a Cambridge Massachusetts based anti-war coalition. The work was part of a strategy to help the organization raise funds to support political candidates who were opposed to the Vietnam war. 

Aesthetically, the “Referendum ’70” screenprint composition is related to the River of Ponds lithographs associated with theNewfoundland Series, which are variations of Stella’s famed protractor paintings from 1967-1970.

In this print, the squared and double squared formats of interlacing protractors create a psychological distancing. Although the dominant motifs of the Protractor series are circular or curvilinear, every shape is actually defined by pairs of horizontal and vertical lines that intersect at right angles; the gridded rectilinear pattern that is formed is superimposed over the decorative arcs. Through the device of the protractor and the use of an unusual color scheme, Stella brought abstraction and decorative pattern painting into congruence in a manner that challenged the conventions of both traditions.

About Vietnam Referendum ’70:

Vietnam Referendum ’70’s initial goal was to “let the people vote on war.” Originally, the committee dedicated itself to getting the 48,000 statewide signatures needed to force the Vietnam question on the fall ballot.  Maurice Donahue, President of the Massachusetts Senate, helped make this effort unnecessary by sponsoring a bill which passed the legislature authorizing the vote. The group, having indirectly achieved its first objective of getting the Vietnam war on the ballot by endorsing Donahue’s bill, shifted to campaigning for immediate withdrawal of troops.

Despite the efforts of the Vietnam Referendum ’70 and Stella’s participation in supporting the effort, the vote was non-binding, no action was legally required by any elected official, be it president Nixon or the Congress. The committee believed that “it will have scored a victory if it can show that no silent majority in favor of the war exists.”

WOW! – Work of the Week – ALBERS, White Line Squares (Series II) XVI





Josef Albers
White Line Squares (Series II) XVI
1966
Lithograph
20 3/4 x 20 3/4 in.
27/125
Initialed in pencil, dated, numbered and titled

About the work:

“The perception of color is deceiving, we may perceive two different colors to look alike, or two equal colors to look different. This game of colors – the change of identity – is the object of my study.”
Josef Albers

Accomplished as a designer, photographer, typographer, and printmaker, Josef Albers is best known for his work as an abstract painter and color theorist. His approach to composition was very disciplined. He spent 26 years creating and mastering thousands of paintings and prints that make up his series “Homage to the Square.” Through this series, Albers explored chromatic interaction with nested squares. 

His works were always created using the same process: he painted mostly on Masonite, using a palette knife to prime the surface with layers of white gesso, then applying each oil color minimally for maximum effect. He would paint one coat of pure color directly to the canvas from the tube, unmixed, starting from the centre and working his way outwards, just as his father, a house painter, carpenter, plumber and general technician, had taught him – a technique that ‘catches the drips of paint and keeps cuffs clean’ he used to say.

He was known to meticulously list the specific manufacturer’s colors and varnishes he used on the back of each work, as if the colors were catalogued components of an optical experiment. Each painting in the series was composed of either three or four squares of solid planes of color nested within one another, in one of four different arrangements and in square formats. 

Despite their name, the Homages  seem to be less about squares within squares than about the infinite possibilities of the chromatic spectrum. Every last one is an exercise in visual juxtaposition, an exploration of the effect that colors have on the eye and on each other. The size and proportion and the number of the squares vary, but they are always offset towards the bottom of the frame  The arrangement of these squares is carefully calculated so that the color of each square optically alters the sizes, hues, and spatial relationships of the others, and this tricks the eye into a figurative response: they look like luminous corridors receding to a vanishing point.

Our Work Of the Week! WOWWhite Line Squares (series II) XVI is from the “Homage to the Square” series. Its color composition is comprised of three surrounding squares in colors cream, warm ochre light, and brown with a white line square in the middle square of ochre.  The ochre on either side of the thin white line is actually the same hue, however, the placement of the white line creates a shift in color on both sides so that the single color appears as two different colors. 

Albers wrote: “A white line within a color instead of as a contour may present a newly discovered effect: when the line is placed within a so-called “middle” color, even when the color is very evenly applied, it will make the one color look like two different shades or tints  of that color.”

An Interesting Note:  Transferring this idea to lithographs was a complicated process, because the white line was created by the unprinted paper. The square containing the white line could not therefore be printed over an underlying color area. Accordingly, the well known printmaker Kenneth Tyler devised a way to print on plates that accurately abutted one another with no overlap.

Having studied and later taught at the famed Bauhaus in Weimar, Germany prior to fleeing to the US, Albers’ work represents a transition between traditional European art and the new American art. It incorporates European influences from the Constructivists and the Bauhaus. His influence fell heavily on American artists of the late 1950s and the 1960s. Hard-Edge abstract painters drew on Albers’ use of  patterns and intense colors, while Op artists and conceptual artists further explored his interest in  perception. 

WOW! – Work of the Week – GOTTLIEB, White Ground Red Disk





Adolph Gottlieb
White Ground Red Disk
1966
Lithograph
29 1/2 x 21 1/2 in.
Edition of 50
Pencil signed, dated and numbered

About the work:

“To my mind certain so-called abstraction is not abstraction at all…on the contrary it is realism of our time.”
Adolph Gottlieb

Growing up during the Depression and maturing throughout the interwar period and rise of Hitler, the American painter and printmaker Adolph Gottlieb was committed to expressing authentic feeling in the face of the traumas of the world. Gottlieb established himself as a pioneer in the movement of Abstract Expressionism and worked actively against the dominating trends of regionalism and realism of the 30’s. He was close with many important artists of the time, Marc Rothko and Barnett Newman for example and together they sought to make American art more experimental 

Gottlieb’s work can be described as a reaction to the times in which he lived, and he is well known for three distinct periods or series. The first, which emerged during the second World War is the “Pictograph” series (1941-1951) comprised of loose grids with schematic forms. This was followed by the “Imaginary Landscape” period (1951-1957), which consisted of semi-abstract landscapes. And finally, his “Burst” period, which is his most famous and which he spent almost two decades exploring (1957-1974) revolved around variations of simplified representations of two shapes – a disc hovering above an explosion of calligraphic strokes. 

This week’s Work Of the Week! White Ground Red Disk is a prime example of his work from the Burst series. 

In the vertical “Bursts,” the series relies heavily on the juxtaposition of forms characterized by an underlining dualism. Gottlieb has brought together, in a single canvas the two poles of Abstract Expressionist painting—the Color Field and Action Painting (or Gestural Abstraction) schools—in a tense balance. 

Color Field painting emerged in the late 50’s, and is known for the use of simple geometric patterns and references landscape imagery and nature. The style is characterized primarily by fields of flat, solid color, creating areas of unbroken surface and a one-dimensional picture plane. The Color Field movement places less emphasis on  gesture , brushstrokes and action in favor of an overall consistency of form and process. In Color Field painting “color is freed from objective context and becomes the subject in itself.”

Action painting, on the other hand, is a style of painting in which paint is spontaneously dribbled, splashed or smeared onto the canvas, rather than being carefully applied. It emphasizes the physical act of painting itself as an essential aspect of the finished work or concern of its artist. The images do not portray objects or even specific emotions. Instead, they aim to touch the observer deep in the subconscious mind, tapping the collective sense of an archetypal visual language. This was done by the artist painting “unconsciously,” and spontaneously, creating a powerful arena of raw emotion and action, in the moment.

The dichotomy between the two forms in the work, the disk and the expressive strokes, led the way and formed the bridge for the geometric abstractionists and minimalists such as Frank Stella and Josef Albers. 

WOW! – Work of the Week – WESSELMANN, Still Life with Liz





Tom Wesselmann
Still Life with Liz
1993
Screenprint
59 1/2 x 57 in.
Edition of 90
Pencil signed and numbered

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.