Beginning in the middle 1960s, Wesselmann begins his iconic series of Mouths and Smokers, all large scale, confrontational and startlingly close-up. The Smoker series as exemplified in Smoker #6 are exquisitely shaped canvases giving them a sculptural presence as well as a hand-painted Pop surface. Smoker #6 is a large-scale detail of a sensual female mouth; a cigarette perched in the corner, with a white puff of ethereal smoke rising upward. The painted surface has bright, colorful and graphic quality of a billboard, as if the details were painted to been seen clearly from afar.
Using the sexiness of the pert, pink lips Wesselmann engages his talent for erotic depictions. A part of the body, the lips, serves as a stand in for the whole, and the idea of smoking can be transferred to other complementary acts. The mouth bares a striking resemblance to those infamous puckered lips of Marilyn Monroe, whose sex appeal Wesselmann, like Warhol, obviously admired.
Andy Warhol, Marilyn Monroe's Lips, 1962 c 2003 Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts/ARS, New York