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Details
John Wesley (b. 1928)
Plague
signed, titled and dated ''PLAGUE' John Wesley 1967' (on the reverse)
acrylic on canvas
68 x 80 in. (172.7 x 203 cm.)
Painted in 1967.
Provenance
Reinhard Onnasch Collection, Berlin
Zwirner & Wirth, New York
Literature
Cheap! Paintings From The Years 1962-1982, Reinhard Onnach Ausstellungen, Berlin, 1983.
John Wesley: Paintings, Gemalde, Schilderijen, 1963-1992, Frankfurt, 1993.
A. Heiss, John Wesley Paintings 1961-2000, New York, 2000, p. 168 (illustrated).
Exhibited
Cologne, Galerie Rudolf Zwirner, 1973
Berlin, Reinhard Onnasch Ausstellugen, 1982
Franfurt, Portikus, Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum, 1993
New York, Zwirner and Wirth, 2006

Lot Essay

John Wesley's characteristic use of serial repetition often draws attention to his close relationships with such minimalist artists as Donald Judd, Dan Flavin, or his ex-wife Jo Baer. However, despite their friendships, Wesley's use of repetition often creates a modest narrative mixed with emotion, giving his paintings a unique twist away from not only minimalism but also Pop-Art, another movement he is commonly associated with.

Wesley's two-dimensional, heavily outlined and stylized manner of painting often further contributes to his comparisons to Pop-Art, especially when popular images such as Bumstead are included in the paintings, however as art historian Martin Hentschel explains it, his style if anything emits an atmosphere of the surreal:

"[Wesley's] repetitions, rather, are obsessive, projective, enigmatic. Both Rabbits (1968) and Plague (1967) serve as good examples. The subjects of both paintings derive from an ambivalent sexual reverie, which, though it takes place in a man's brain, can also be interpreted as the projection of female imagination. Rabbits and babies appear as the products of self-perpetuating, traumatic flights of intellect. If one is looking for a peer here, the first artist that comes to mind is Reni Magritte, who often moved in a similar sphere" (M. Hentschel, John Wesley: Paintings, Gemälde, Schilderijen, 1963-1992. exh.cat, Stedelijk Museum, 1993, p. 20).

"Elaborate good humor to downright damned foolishness in Western visible arts is scarce. Jack Wesley can deal them with weird eccentric precision - just about as well as any artist whom I know. And he has a long, irreverent history to prove it all.
I salute you, dear Jack, as one hell of a sly wise painterly adept. So Paul Klee to you, good guy" (D. Flavin, as quoted as an untitled statement from The Chinati Foundation in, A. Heiss, John Wesley: Paintings 1961-2000, New York, 2000, p. 201).

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