TOM WESSELMANN (1931-2004)
TOM WESSELMANN (1931-2004)
TOM WESSELMANN (1931-2004)
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TOM WESSELMANN (1931-2004)

Bedroom Painting #64

TOM WESSELMANN (1931-2004)
Bedroom Painting #64
signed and dated 'Wesselmann 83' (on the overlap); signed again, titled and dated again 'BEDROOM PAINTING #64 1983 WESSELMANN' (on the stretcher)
oil on shaped canvas
71 x 138 in. (180.3 x 350.5 cm.)
Painted in 1983.
Estate of the artist, New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner
J. Wilmerding, Tom Wesselmann, His Voice and Vision, New York, 2008 p. 136 (illustrated).
S. Aquin, Beyond Pop: Tom Wesselmann, Montreal 2012, exh. cat., Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, pp. 22-23, no. 3 (illustrated).
New York, Sidney Janis Gallery, New Work by Tom Wesselmann, November 1983.
New York, Yvon Lambert, Tom Wesselmann: Drop-out, December 2007-January 2008, n.p., no. 14 (illustrated).
Special notice
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Further details
Please note that this work will be included in the Tom Wesselmann Digital Corpus published by the Wildenstein Plattner Institute, and will be included in their forthcoming Tom Wesselmann Digital Catalogue Raisonné.

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Lot Essay

"In 1983 all the new tendencies were established, and in 1984 they grew into more full fruition."
- Tom Wesselmann

As one of the final examples of the artist’s Bedroom Paintings series – a series that he began developing in the 1960s – Bedroom Painting #64 is uniquely fresh, the artist integrating a new mature voice that boldly stands at a pivotal crossroad in the artist's career. Wesselmann effortlessly comingles the art historical genres of the still life and female nude, capturing this juxtaposition within a daring and alluringly shaped canvas. It was these persistent experimentations with color and figuration that established the conceptual backbone for the artist’s subsequent Steel Drawings and cemented his status as an innovator of bodily expression.

It is through the drastic asymmetry of Wesselmann’s characteristically shaped canvas that Bedroom Painting #64 impressively achieves a delicate balance between prominent figuration, most clearly expressed in the heft of the dark rounded object to the lower right, and negative space, which alludes to the presence of a woman’s breasts. The artist successfully employs an optical illusion that immediately draws the viewer’s eye as they attempt to reason with the starkness that occupies the work. The gentle slope of the canvas reveals an unmistakably feminine presence residing in a liminal space between the inviting interior setting and the external world. In the midst of this compositional experimentation, Wesselmann places an immediately identifiable vase of flowers that ground this vivid fantasy in a recognizable reality. Even more striking is the sheer scale of the work, its magnitude recalling the artist’s early fascination with billboards and his previous Still Life series, which displayed a similar enormity.

Bedroom Painting #64 utilizes a configuration of angular and rounded lines that firmly demarcate the work into three sections. Within the overarching series, the artist consistently exhibits his ability to define an edge in a manner that compels one to long for more. He playfully toys with the viewer, composing a tantalizing window of temptation while employing a pictorial flatness reminiscent of the work of Alex Katz, who once served as his teacher, and Matisse’s paper cut-outs. The intentional reduction of color and form to its absolute purity allows for the objects and figure to be perceived within an air of mystery. On his figurative style, the artist noted that “too much detail could slow it down” (T. Wesselmann quoted in T. Buchsteiner, O. Letze, Tom Wesselmann, exh. cat. Institute for Cultural Exchange, Tübingen, 1996, p. 11). Wesselmann simultaneously retains a number of paradoxes within the present work, dancing between two and three-dimensionality, as well as between the existence and absence of physical components. The opaque surface of the canvas contains a luminous quality that almost appears to generate a glow reminiscent of neon signs. This magnified moment of intimacy that is legibly situated at the edge of a window pulls at the corners of the mind and invites endless interpretations.

The sensational nature of Wesselmann’s earlier work stands in sharp contrast to the comparatively more subtle eroticism that presents itself in Bedroom Painting #64. While still unabashedly sensual, it does not go unnoticed that there is an almost complete removal of the corporeal form. This was a vital development in the artist’s oeuvre that initiated a departure from the more traditional female nude and allowed him to delve into more novel representations of the body. This fragmentation of the figure in the present example was what paved the way for imminent transitions of Wesselmann’s work into the realm of abstraction.
Wesselmann’s desire to omit the visible presence of his hand at work – rather opting for opaque, consistent brushwork – stemmed from his appreciation of Abstract Expressionism. Preferring not to be dwarfed by the already established figures of the movement that he admired, such as de Kooning, he chose to extricate himself from comparison by generating a body of work that was as representational as possible. It was under these radical circumstances that he daringly stepped into the realm of Pop Art. Alongside notable contemporaries including Lichtenstein, Warhol, and James Rosenquist, Wesselmann exhibited at the renowned Sidney Janis Gallery’s New Realists show in 1962, establishing himself amongst the foremost of this movement. The artist would later unveil Bedroom Painting #64 in a solo exhibition with his inventive Steel Drawings.

Tom Wesselmann’s talent in confronting long-established conventions in a manner that both celebrates and revolutionizes their portrayal positions the artist as one of the most ubiquitously admired artists of the past half-decade. In relation to his contemporaries, Tom Wesselmann excels at retaining an almost singular focus on one subject and continually ‘reinventing the wheel’ in a captivating light, making his commitment to rendering the female body a boundless exploration of its aesthetic form. Bedroom Painting #64 encapsulates the essence of Wesselmann’s artistic adaptability while offering a dynamism that is rarely seen in traditional nudes and still lifes.

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